Falling Asleep On His Own

Excited About His New Bed

Excited About His New Bed

Rocco spent the first 17 months of his life sleeping with me about 90% of the time.  Between 14 and 17 months, I researched every alternative to the Ferber CIO (cry it out) method and tried them all with very little progress.  I was able to get him to fall asleep without nursing him, but I spent an hour or more each day bent over his crib rubbing his back and soothing him to sleep.  Within a few hours he would wake up screaming and trembling with fear.  Even though I rushed to him every time he woke up, I would spend the next 30 minutes with a scared toddler clingy to me for dear life.  I thought he just disliked being in his own bedroom alone, because he was happy to play in there during the day, and was fine in the crib with me in the room.  We had a nice bedtime routine established, which took place in his room as well.  I nursed him, read him stories, rocked him, and sang him lullabies.  I reassured him daily that I was always in the house and would come to him whenever he needed me.  Nothing helped.  Soon, he started regressing and would become upset at the sight of the crib.  I went back to nursing him to sleep.  Within about a week, he started waking up and literally flying out of the crib before I could get into his room.  The mattress spring was in the third and lowest position, so I took it off and dropped it another three inches to the frame of the bed.  That did not help and he was out the second night at midnight, less than three hours after going to sleep.  That was the 31st of May, 2008.  He was 17 months old.  On the 1st of June, I removed the side of the bed and decided to use it as little love seat/daybed.  We would sit and read books and cuddle with stuffed animals, and I would co-sleep with him until he went off to college.

Rocco “helped” me take off the side, which was very exciting to him.  He helped me put blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals on our new love seat/daybed.  At that point, I was not even thinking about having him use this as a bed.  To my surprise he loved it.  He played on or around it for the next two hours, and even pretended to sleep with his blanket covering him and his eyes closed.  When nap time came, he didn’t want to get out of the bed, so I climbed in there with him, which was very uncomfortable, and nursed him to sleep.  He slept 90 minutes, a nap time record for Rocco.  He had never napped for more than 30 minutes in his crib, and always finished him nap in my lap in the living room chair.

That first night, I decided to give bedtime a try in the new toddler bed.  It went as smoothly as nap time had gone and he was asleep at the regular time.  He had never slept alone in his room for more than three hours, and I did not expect the toddler bed to change that.  Well, it did, and he slept over four hours the first night.  After a few weeks, he was sleeping six to seven hours straight in his bed, and I was thrilled!  Soon, I moved his bedtime two hours earlier, which I have written about in another blog, and he was sleeping eight to nine hours straight in his bed most nights.

Now, for how I got him to fall asleep alone without fussing or crying and without me in the bed nursing him to sleep.  The first step was nursing him into a groggy state in the rocking chair, laying him in the bed, and rubbing his back until he drifted off to sleep.  That worked almost immediately.  When it didn’t work, I repeated the process until it did.  In other words, if he got upset and sat up or tried to get out of bed, it was back to the rocking chair to nurse until he finally drifted off to being nearly asleep.

I moved to the next step after about four days.  With each step, if it did not work, I went back to the last step that worked, and kept trying.  On the fifth day, I rubbed his back for a very short time and then stopped, but continued to sit next to his bed.  If he started getting up, I’d lay him back down and rub his back more. That happened a few times.   Within a week, I was able to lay him down, rub his back for less than a minute, and he would go to sleep.  A week or so after that, I stopped sitting next to his bed and sat across the room in the rocking chair as soon as I put him in his bed.  If he got upset, I simply moved back to his bedside, settled him down, and went back to the rocking chair reassuring him that I was close by.  Once he was comfortable with that, I stood at the doorway.  That was the longest step, and it took Rocco over two weeks to become comfortable with not having me in the room.  Finally, I tucked him in his bed, gave him and hug and kiss, and walked out of the room.  It was about six weeks to complete the entire process.  The last step was the longest.  The first night, he got out of his bed no fewer than 50 times and followed me into the hallway.  I clearly and firmly told him that it was bedtime, and that he needed to close his eyes and go to sleep.  After putting him back in bed the first time, I did not say a word to him when I put him back to bed.  That was an exhausting process, but thankfully, there was no crying. I took a very long time, making sure he was comfortable with the routine and never felt scared or anxious.  He did not cry or have tantrums during this process, which was very important to me.  It took a lot of patience on my part, but it was priceless for me to have Rocco learn to fall asleep on his own without it being traumatic for either of us.

Thanks for reading~Sid


Thank You Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek and Valentina

Salma Hayek and Valentina

Recently, ABC’s “Nightline” aired a story about humanitarian Salma Hayek’s goodwill trip to Sierra Leone.  The reason for her trip was to help fight tetanus.  What has the world buzzing about this story is the brief footage of Hayek breastfeeding a hungry infant boy.  I was compelled to write about this story because it is an issue I am very passionate about.  My mother started boycotting Nestle in the 1970s, and her explanation about introducing formula into third world countries and the problems it caused is one of my earliest memories.  I want to stress that am not anti-formula.  In a culture where formula is not readily available, cannot not prepared properly due to contaminated water, it is tantamount to killing children.  After introducing formula, a mother’s milk supply dries up, her infant loses the precious immunities provided by the mother’s milk, and then the child becomes sick, malnourished, and often dies because of the introduction of formula.  Because of this terrible situation, Salma Hayek’s gesture brought me to tears, and I am very emotional just writing about.  I am not sure that I can find the words to express how moved I am by this.  Salma Hayek is my new hero … well heroine.  I would have done the same thing without hesitation.  In fact, I would love to go on a goodwill mission with an army of breastfeeding mothers, feed villages of hungry babies, and encourage mothers to breastfeed.  Celebrities have enormous power in our culture, and when I see it used for something this important, it helps restore my faith in humanity.  I have never been a fan of the celebrity machine, which is usually hard at work influencing us to be thin, beautiful, perfect, and ageless.  I have to admit that I never paid attention to Salma Hayek before this story aired.  I am paying attention now, and hope to see more celebrities following her courageous lead.

Sierra Leone has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.  This is in large part due to malnutrition and starvation.  While doctors encourage mothers to breastfeed for two years, it is not commonly done, due to pressure from their husbands to stop.  In their culture, men are forbidden to have sexual relations with breastfeeding women.  It is certainly unrealistic for a married couple to abstain for two years, however, education is needed about the benefits of breast feeding.  Salma Hayek’s decision to breastfeed another woman’s infant was made in part to help diminish this stigma.  At the time of her trip, Hayek was breastfeeding her own daughter, Valentina.  Ironically, the infant boy she breastfed shared her daughter’s birthday.

Personally, I found this gesture beyond beautiful.  I love Salma Hayek for doing this, and using her celebrity power to make a positive difference in the world.  She is an amazing woman and I have an enormous amount of respect for her.

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp6wpmqVMsk

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 9:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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Early Bedtime Routine, Better Sleep

A consistent bedtime routine is a great way to end the day, and helps your baby or toddler relax and prepare himself for sleep.  Our bedtime routine has changed quite a few times as Rocco has grown from a newborn into a toddler over the last two years.  We have it down to a science now, and it works brilliantly about 90% of the time.

Sleeping Rocco

Sleeping Rocco

When Rocco was a bit younger, I made the common mistake of keeping him up until he showed obvious signs of being tired.  I was not putting him down for naps or bedtime until the whining started.  He would start getting upset about every little thing that went wrong.  His balance was off and he would start rubbing his eyes and yawning.  Some days, he did not take a nap until two o’clock, which started pushing bedtime as late as ten o’clock.  Although I had read dozens of books, I was regularly reminded that waiting for my toddler to show obvious signs of tiredness meant that he was overtired and I had waited much too long.  Several sources mentioned that very young children need to go to sleep much earlier, and that the ideal bedtime was around seven o’clock.  I wanted my evenings back.  Rocco was not the only grumpy one.

Several months ago, I decided to put Rocco on a better sleep schedule and follow a consistent bedtime routine for 30 days and see what happened.  The results were amazing and had a positive impact on every part of our day.  He was happier and much easier to deal with all day long.  He was getting the sleep he really needed and I was getting an extra three hours to myself.  I felt like a new person, and a much better mom.  Changing his sleep schedule was an excellent decision.  My only regret is not having done it months earlier.

The first day, I got him up an hour early, so he would nap before noon.  Surprisingly, he did very well with that and was asleep at 11:45 a.m.  I made a commitment to be home by five o’clock to start our new bedtime routine.  I gave him dinner in his high chair at five o’clock sharp.  He watched a PBS Sprout cartoon, which kept him happy in the high chair for 30 minutes and he ate most of his dinner.  Usually, he put a fight about eating and tried to climb out several times.  Television can be a wonderful tool when used wisely.  After dinner, Rocco had a bubble bath with a tub full of toys.  This had not happened since he was under a year old.  I usually gave a tired, crying toddler a quick three-minute shower.  He loved his bath and stayed in there until six o’clock.  After his bath, I dressed him in cozy pajamas, sat with him in the rocking chair in his nursery, and nursed him for about 15 minutes.  Everything was so much easier because it was early and he did not seem tired.  Before, everything was a battle because he was overtired.  After I nursed him, I explained that we needed to clean the milk off of his teeth, so we went back to the bathroom where I brushed his teeth and swabbed them with mouthwash.  Normally, he resisted and cried when I tried to clean his teeth.  He could not have been more cooperative.  With a full tummy and clean teeth, we returned to the rocking chair for three bedtime stories.  Before, he was wiggling out of my lap and whining while I tried to read to him.  After his stories, it was time to sit on the potty chair (he had just gotten out of diapers at the time).  Again, no resistance.  I showed him two more bedtime books and told him that I would read them as soon as he was in his bed.  He happily climbed into his bed and put his head down on the pillow!  This was a first at bedtime, and it was only about 6:40 p.m. at this point.  Again, this step was usually a big struggle and I felt like I was wrestling an alligator to get him into bed most nights.  I tucked him in and read him two more books.  I expected it to take him a long time to fall asleep so early.  He was sound asleep halfway through the second book, at 6:50 p.m.

It took about ten days for Rocco to adjust to going to sleep that early.  At first, he woke up several times a night before two o’clock.  After two weeks, he was sleeping nine hours in his bed, getting up to use the potty at four o’clock and coming in my bed to nurse and go right back to sleep until seven o’clock most mornings.  When he used to go to bed as late as ten o’clock, he was still up at four o’clock to nurse and never slept later than eight o’clock.  By making his bedtime earlier, his sleep increased from ten hours a night to twelve on average.  The length of the nap never changed, and has been an hour a day since he was 14 months old.

Putting Rocco on an early nap and bedtime schedule has been a totally positive experience.  I highly recommend this to all parents of toddlers.  It’s worth a try and hopefully many parents will find that it improves their child’s moods.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 1:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Saint Rocco ~ My Son’s Namesake

Saint Rocco
Saint Rocco

I never realized what a negative association many Americans had with the name Rocco until I began receiving looks of horror and disgust from people when they heard my son’s name.  I will admit that it did not fit him when he was an infant, but by some of the expressions, you would have thought I told people his name was Adolph Hitler.  I do not live in an area with a large Italian population, so I had never met anyone named Rocco. We have a Rocco’s Pizza in town though, as well as restaurants named Dario’s, Stefano’s, Gianni’s, and Fabrizio’s. My first association with all of those names was great Italian food. Mafia thugs never crossed my mind. Apparently, the character, Rocco Lampone, from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather left quite a negative impression on the minds of many Americans. I wondered about the other Godfather characters like Michael, Anthony, Vincent, Sonny, Paulie, Joe, and Carlo. Perhaps those are common enough that people have made many other associations with them. What about the name Luca? My son has a sister named Luca.  She was 13 years old when Rocco was born. Neither name is very common, but both were in the top 500 the year Rocco was born. I was curious as to why no one associated it with the character Luca Brasi, described as ruthless, brutish, slow-witted, and the only man feared by Vito Corleone, with a reputation as a savage killer. In general, people love that name, so what happened with Rocco? I simply do not accept that The Godfather had such a powerful influence over people’s opinions of a name. Rocco is a perfectly good name that’s been around since at least the 14th century. It has very special meaning to me, and I am writing this to share my personal reasons for naming my son Rocco.

My son is not named for a movie character, and mobster movies were the furthest thing on my mind when I chose the name. Rocco is named for a Catholic saint.  Saint Rocco was French, although the name is Italian.  My son’s paternal grandmother was French (LeBlanc) and his paternal grandfather was Italian (DeTora).  It was great to have an Italian name with a French connection for our son.  In 1998, I took a religious education class about the Catholic saints and wrote a report on Saint Rocco. I learned everything known about his life and works.  He became my favorite saint and I decided if I ever had another son and the name flowed with his surname, he would be called Rocco.

The life of Saint Rocco was very interesting to me.  He was born into a wealthy family about 1340 A.D. in Montpellier, France. At birth, he had a red cross shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. From a very young age, Rocco was very devoted to God and the Blessed Mother, Mary. He was quite young when his parents died and was left in the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. As a very young man, Rocco took a vow of poverty and gave all of his money to the poor.

Dressed in the clothes of a pilgrim, he went to Rome. On his journey, he traveled through Aquapendente, Cesena, and other neighboring cities before reaching Rome. These cities were stricken by the plague. Rocco devoted himself to these plague victims and healed them with prayer and the sign of the cross. Legend has it that everywhere Rocco visited, his miraculous power healed entire cities. After leaving Rome, he traveled through Mantua, Modena, and Parma, all with the same amazing results.

During this time, Rocco contracted the plague, which was evident by a sore on his right leg. This caused him to be banished from the city. He took refuge in a cave, sleeping on leaves and drinking from a stream. Legend has it that a dog owned by a lord refused to eat and would faithfully bring Rocco bread each day.  Out of curiosity, the lord followed his dog one day and discovered Rocco in the cave. Taking pity on him, he brought Rocco back to his castle where he was healed.

Rocco continued to travel through northern Italy for about three more years. When he returned to his birthplace in France, he was very ill and unrecognizable to the townspeople. He was thrown into prison.  He had been imprisoned for five years when a guard found him near death and his cell illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. His uncle, the governor heard of this, went to the jail cell, and demanded to know his identity.  When asked, he replied “I am your nephew, Rocco.” When the governor saw the birthmark on his chest, he knew this to be true. Rocco passed away on that day, the 16th of August in 1378. After his passing, those present in his cell heard a voice announcing that the soul of Saint Rocco had merited immortal glory in Heaven.

Saint Rocco continued to perform miracles after his death. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector of the plague and all contagious diseases. His image is very unique because of his pose and that he is depicted pointing to a sore on his leg. It is extremely rare for images of saints to expose any afflictions or handicaps. The body of Saint Rocco is enclosed in a glass tomb in Saint Rocco Catholic Church in Venice, Italy. He is remembered each year on the 16th of August. Saint Rocco is greatly venerated throughout Italy, but especially in Southern Italy and Sicily.  He is my son’s namesake.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm  Comments (9)  
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Delivery Room Surprise

Rocco Gavin Oliver

Rocco Gavin Oliver~Two Hours Old

I went into the hospital expecting to give birth to a big baby, weighing between eight and nine pounds. I was planning to name her Amelia Elizabeth Grace. Based on three ultrasounds, I was told that I was carrying a girl. Three different doctors at the end of the pregnancy estimated the birth weight to be over eight pounds. Taking into consideration the size of my first child, my birth weight, and the father’s birth weight, this seemed within reason. The baby’s father is Italian, with dark hair and eyes, so I envisioned a dark-haired baby girl.

I was admitted to Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco just after eleven o’clock at night on the 21st of December, after it was confirmed that my water had broken. My estimated due date was December 24th or 25th based on both my last missed period and the date of conception, so the baby was going to be two or three days early. My first contraction on the monitor came at 3:03 a.m. on Friday, the 22nd of December, 2006. I opted for natural child birth because of my horrible experience with an epidural during my first labor.  That is a topic for another blog. At 7:02 a.m., I was 10 cm and the doctor told me to push. I pushed twice on the next contraction at 7:03 a.m. The baby’s heart rate dropped sharply after that second push. My nurse yelled “The baby’s heart rate is down! Get that baby out on the next push!” When the next contraction came, I pushed with all my strength and the baby was born at 7:05 a.m. I saw a bright pink face and heard a strong cry. I couldn’t wait to see my baby and make sure she was healthy. As the doctor was suctioning the baby’s mouth, my nurse looked at me and said “You have a perfect, healthy baby boy!” If I’d been standing up, I would have fallen over. They took him over to weigh him and the scale read just six pounds and seven ounces! Then came the third shock when they cleaned him up and he had a head full of blond hair! Rocco Gavin Oliver was born at 7:05 a.m. on Friday, the 22nd of December, 2006 in San Francisco, California.

I had gone into the hospital expecting a very different baby. I was thrilled beyond words when I had a son. When I conceived at the beginning of April, we were trying for a boy. I had his name picked out, and I was sure that I was having a boy, so I purchased a lot of boy things during the first half of my pregnancy. After the results of my 20-week ultrasound, I packed up all my baby boy things and put them in the garage. Thankfully, I already had a gender neutral nursery, but when I brought my son home, his closet was full of pink newborn clothes, all washed and ready to wear *sigh*. It took me a few months to pack them all away, mainly because life was so busy with a newborn.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Advanced Maternal Age

Eating Healthy ~ Living Well

When I first heard those words, “advanced maternal age,” I felt sick to my stomach.  What a truly offensive and vulgar term to use for a vibrant, healthy, fit woman in her thirties!  It was May 2006, and I was sitting in the office of a new obstetrician.  I was eight weeks pregnant and had just seen my little duck on an ultrasound for the first time, beating heart and all.  What a crushing blow to such an amazing experience to listen to this woman.  She went on to lecture me about genetic testing and recommended a very long list of tests.  When I declined without hesitation, she looked at me as if I were the most irresponsible, idiot on the planet and did not deserve to have a healthy baby.  She then had the audacity to tell me that my eggs were old and that I should not be taking this so lightly.  I was really rattled by this experience.  I never saw her again.  I continued my prenatal care with a different doctor whom respected my choices.  I kept telling myself that I was much healthier than I had been eighteen years earlier with my first child.  I was walking five miles every single day on hiking trails that gave me a great cardiovascular workout.  I started taking prenatal vitamins a full year before I became pregnant.  I had also lost about thirty pounds two years earlier and kept it off.  I really had never felt better and was taking great care of myself.  I understand that our eggs are older than we are, and that the majority of them are damaged.  I read that a perfectly healthy 25-year-old woman only has a 20% of conceiving each month because four out of five of her eggs are already unsuitable for fertilization.  Well, I got pregnant too quickly and too easily, but that is a story for another time.  I chose to have a positive attitude and tell myself that my healthy egg was fertilized because it was perfect and that my baby would be fine.  He would be healthy and I did not need any of those tests.  After reading about the odds of miscarriage from the invasive tests, there was no doubt in my mind that I was making the best decision.  Although not invasive or dangerous, I declined the maternal serum screening, which is just a blood test, and the nuchal translucency.  It simply tells you if there is an increased chance that your baby has a problem.  Because I was unwilling to do the invasive tests, including the chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or the amniocentisis, the blood test results would only cause me more worry and stress if anything negative was indicated.  I was not going to consider aborting, so why risk miscarriage?

Looking back on my pregnancy, I had nothing to worry about.  If only I’d had a crystal ball.  I worked full-time in a physically demanding job up until the night before I gave birth.  I continued walking five miles a day up until I delivered.  I never had heartburn.  I never had aches and pains.  I never had swollen ankles.  I passed the glucose test for gestational diabetes with flying colors.  I never went into premature labor.  I had a painful, but very fast labor and delivery with no epidural or pain medication.  I was up and ready to leave the hospital the same day I gave birth.  In one day, I shed every pound I had gained during the pregnancy and wore my pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital.

In the end, my Christmas baby boy was born several days early and could not have been healthier.  I did the best I could, kept a positive attitude, and the outcome could not have been better.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From Co-Sleeping to Toddler Bed at 17 Months

Rocco's First Night in the Toddler Bed

Rocco's First Night in the Toddler Bed

Rocco never slept in his crib for very long.  During his first year, he slept between five minutes and maybe three hours at a time.  Between 14 and 17 months, I struggled to help him become comfortable with sleeping in his crib.  I read a million books about toddlers and sleep.  I tried every non-CIO method of getting him to go to sleep and stay asleep.  Nothing worked, and he became increasingly freaked out by the “cage” we called his crib.  As a nanny, I had helped dozens of infants and toddlers sleep in their cribs.  I had never dealt with such a difficult infant or toddler when it came to sleeping in a crib.  My first son loved his crib and we couldn’t get him in a regular bed until he was four years old.  Rocco disliked his crib from the day he came home from the hospital.  Well, it turned out that his main objection was the confinement of the crib.  If only I had known earlier, I would have converted it to a toddler bed as soon as he started walking.  At 17 months, he began climbing out of the crib after sleeping just a few hours at bedtime.  I could not get to him quickly enough, even with a monitor, so I converted the crib into a toddler bed.  I was concerned that he would really hurt himself.  I thought it would be nice to use as a place to read books in his room and his stuffed animals could sleep there.  As soon as he saw his new bed, he climbed in and would not get out.  That day, we played in his room until nap time and he went right to sleep in his new bed.  He was very calm and comfortable with the knowledge that he could easily get in and out of the bed.  He seemed to love that I could sit right next to him on the floor and give him full hugs too.  To my absolute shock and surprise, naps and bedtime became almost effortless from the beginning.

Thanks for reading ~ Sid

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 4:33 am  Comments (2)  
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