Three months on from sleep school…

Frankie - harness free!

Frankie – harness free!

Why hello there! I can’t believe it’s been two months since I last posted here. Well, I can believe it, because I have been back in the land of work and things have been pretty hectic. But it’s definitely time for another update. Things are going really well on the Frankie-front (and the boob front – for those who read about my bad left boob). It’s now been a bit over three months since we “graduated” from Masada and Frankie is a completely different baby. Here are the highlights:

1. Frankie loves sleeping. I would even go so far to say that her cot is quite possibly her favourite place in the house. I can’t remember the last time she cried or even grizzled when I put her down to sleep and she will happily mutter away to herself (about god knows what) until she drifts off to sleep. And the same thing happens when she wakes up. If we weren’t paranoid parents who have a video monitor set up in Frankie’s room, we would actually have no idea when she wakes up because she LOVES BEING IN BED. She will easily spend half an hour just playing with her hands and having a little one-way chat to herself before we realise she is awake and it’s time to get her up. How crazy is that?

2. Frankie’s hips are almost normal. As you might remember, a week after coming home from Masada, Frankie was diagnosed with hip dysplasia so she was immediately put into a Pavlik harness. Not much fun, and definitely no Pat Pat for us. Well, I should say not much fun for me and Shannon, as Frankie didn’t seem to mind at all. But as of about three weeks ago, Frankie is out of the harness! This means we are free to use the Pat Pat technique again, although we ironically now have no use for it (see Point 1).

3. I haven’t had mastitis or blocked ducts in over three weeks. This is an all time new record for me. This is mentally exciting news (for me, anyway).

Highlights aside, I thought I’d also share Frankie’s current routine (as she is now 6.5 months old). I will preface this by saying that Frankie’s awake time is a bit shorter than what Masada recommend, but to be honest, we now take the Masada “rules” with a grain of salt and go with what seems to work best for Frankie.

7am – We wake up Frankie. Although by this time, Frankie is often awake and having little morning chats with herself. Breast feed, a bit of play, breakfast, a bit more play, then back to bed when she shows tired signs which inevitably happens around the 1.5 hour mark.

8.30am – Nap 1.

10.30am/11am – Frankie wakes from nap 1. Yes, it is quite the mega nap. Like I said, this girl loves her sleep. I started to wean about two weeks ago, so this feed is now a formula feed, followed by lunch. Incidentally, it took a week of frustration, tears (from both me and Frankie), and several different formulas before we could even get Frankie to have a drop of the stuff (she such a boob snob). How we got there in the end was dipping the tip of the bottle into some Rafferty’s fruit puree and “tricking” Frankie into sucking on the bottle. And after a couple of days of this, Frankie now loves formula almost as much as she loves sleep. After lunch, we have more play time and then it’s back to bed when the tired signs creep in – normally after 2 hours or a bit less.

12.30pm (ish) – Nap 2.

2.30pm (ish) – Nap 2 is normally another mega nap for Frankie – often lasting two hours. We do another breast feed at this time although I am now trying to drop this feed too, because I truly hate expressing milk at work. This week, some moron walked in on me expressing. Probably more awkward for him rather than me, but not great for me either. Apparently my putting a big “DO NOT ENTER” sign on the meeting room door didn’t compute in his head as meaning “Don’t enter this room you stupid idiot”.

4/4.30pm – Nap 3. This is usually just a cat nap, so we always end up waking Frankie after 1-1.5 hours.

5/5.30pm – Dinner, then a bit of play, then bath time. Then a final breast feed and off to bed. Frankie often gets grumpy after about an hour at this point in the day, although we do try to stretch her for 90 minutes.

6.30/7pm – Bedtime. 10pm – I am still doing a dream feed, although Frankie is drinking less and less from it, and Masada recommend dropping it at the seven month mark. Personally, I’d love to crawl into bed at 9pm so staying up until 10pm can be exhausting, which I realise makes me sound like an 80 year old woman.

So that’s it for now. I’ll try to post a bit more regularly – and keep your comments and questions coming as I love hearing what you are all up to!

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What does life look like 6 weeks post Masada Sleep School?

Today marks our six week anniversary since “graduating” from the Masada Mother Baby Unit sleep school. Overall, it’s been awesome – although there have definitely been a few challenges. Let’s start with the awesome:

The stuff that has got better

Frankie is well and truly into a routine (which I often manage to stuff up when I try to have a life, but that’s a story for another post). I wrote about her routine here and it has helped infinitely in organising my life around Frankie’s. For example, 9-10am is what I call “the hour of productivity”. Frankie is always asleep at this time which means I can do things like have a phone conference for work, write a proposal for a client, or even have a shower (crazy stuff like that). Then, depending on when she wakes from her first nap, I am given a bit of structure for the rest of the day too through knowing roughly when she will feed/play/sleep.

Me during my "hour of productivity"

Me during my “hour of productivity”

Despite having a bad left boob, I am still, somehow, exclusively breastfeeding. Prior to Masada, this meant being chained to Frankie who was a champion little snacker – feeding every 2-2.5 hours. She now only needs feeding every 3.5-4 hours, which means I can actually leave Frankie for a couple of hours and not worry about her dying of hunger. Amazing.

I have read that there are all sorts of definitions of what “sleeping through the night means” – ranging from sleeping from 7-7, through to sleeping for five hours in a row (which makes no sense to me as a definition as five hours does not maketh a night). Frankie has become an awesome little sleeper at night. She now always goes down without too much of a fuss between 6.30-7pm. We wake her up for a dream feed at 11/11.30pm, and then she is now almost always sleeping through ’til around 6.30 or 7am. This is a VERY different Frankie to the pre-Masada one. Granted, she is six weeks older, but what I love most is the predictability. My husband and I can now do mental stuff like have people over for dinner at 7pm and have uninterrupted conversation.

Nap time

Nap time

I am no longer a completely sleep deprived wreck. I am just a slightly sleep deprived one. Because Frankie sleeps in such big chunks at night, that means I can too. I can also nap during the day when Frankie naps (and boy do I love napping). Having said that, I am often plagued by insomnia (again, a story for another day) so while in theory I am getting massive chunks in bed with my eyes shut, it doesn’t always equate to sleep. But still, when I can kick the insomnia, I look forward to feeling more normal again…

The stuff that has NOT got better

Recurrent Mastitis. Although I did see the amazing lactation consultant Sue Shaw a couple of days ago and I think I may have solved that problem. Fingers crossed. I am one week free of blocked boobs – a record for me for the past month.

We can’t do the side pat anymore! Now – this is a BIG BUMMER. A week after Masada, Frankie was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Great that it was picked up early, but not great for using the Masada Pat Pat. Because Frankie is wearing a Pavlik Harness 23.5 hours a day, we are not allowed to turn her on her side! I called up Masada for some advice, and they said to just pat her on her chest and at the front of the nappy. However, this makes her MORE unsettled. She screams like we have never heard her scream before. I called up Masada again to get more advice, but no one has returned my call…very frustrating. So what this means in practice is if Frankie is unsettled, we don’t really have many tricks up our sleeve. Luckily she has been really great at self settling since Masada, but we still have grizzle hour at about 5pm every night, and we normally just give in and get her up early.

Frankie in her Pavlik harness. No more side patting for us :(

Frankie in her Pavlik harness. No more side patting for us 😦

For those who have been playing along at home, I’d love to hear how you are tracking. And if you are a fellow Masada graduate, I’d love to hear how things are going for you!

How to answer the question: What have you been up to all day?

If you are a stay at home mum and have a working husband, then when your husband walks through the door at 6pm (or later), the first question you probably hear is “How was your day?” And because us mums are in a perpetual state of exhaustion, we can’t even remember what we did five minutes ago, let alone eight hours ago. Which is why I really liked the approach I learnt to tracking your bub that Masada uses…

When Frankie was born, I was obsessed with tracking every bowel movement, wee, breast feed, mood and so on. I was addicted to Sprout – my favourite baby tracking app (after trialling about six hundred and fifty-nine of them) – and would be on it recording information, like every hour. Obviously, everything I tracked was pretty much useless and I never looked back on it, but as a first time mum, of course I was going to track every little fart, burp, and pooh!

By the time I took Frankie to Masada, I had grown out of my tracking obsession, only to be fuelled by a new one – and a much more useful one – that the nurses at Masada taught me. You may remember me describing the Masada set-up in an earlier post, where your baby sleeps in its own little room (which looks like a mini jail cell) across the corridor from mum’s room. Outside bub’s room is a clipboard where nurses (and later, me) would track the following:

– what time Frankie woke
– what time Frankie fed
– what time Frankie was put to bed
– whether Frankie cried or grizzled upon being put into bed
– what time Frankie grizzled during her “sleep time”, and for how long
– what time Frankie cried during her “sleep time”, and for how long
– whether Frankie needed to be resettled during sleep time

And being a total data nerd, I LOVED the tracking. All this info on Frankie! Patterns to look for, conclusions to draw! Nerd nirvana!

Our little stool of Nerd Nirvana outside Frankie's room.

Our little stool of Nerd Nirvana outside Frankie’s room.

And now, one month after leaving Masada, we still use this method of tracking. It’s bloody awesome. It reminds me how long we need to keep Frankie up for, it lets me know how settled or unsettled Frankie has been during a day or during the whole week. It lets me see progress we have made since “graduating” from Masada.

Let me explain how it works:

1. When I get Frankie out of bed after her nighttime sleep or a nap, I write the time, and “up”. Or just “U” if I am feeling particularly lazy.
2. When I feed Frankie, I write BF (breast feed) and the time.
3. When I put Frankie down to sleep, I write the time and “down” or “D”. If she grizzles or cries when I leave the room, I write “grizzle/cry on exit” – or GOE/COE for short.
4. When I hear a grizzle or cry during sleep time, I time how long it goes for and write this down – for example, 2.30pm, grizzle for 4 minutes. Self-settled (if, indeed, she does self-settle).
5. If I need to go into resettle – that is, if she cries for 2 minutes or grizzles for 10 minutes, I write the time I did this and “Pat Pat”.

What this then leads to is a really comprehensive and useful record of how Frankie is tracking.

Sleepy Frankie at bath time.

Sleepy Frankie at bath time.

It also means that if my husband has been at work all day and asks “What have you been up to all day”, I can pull out the tracking sheet and show him everything that’s been going on in the world of Frankie and I.
I’d love to hear if you are tracking your bub, and for those who do try this method – what do you think of it?

So what does the Masada Pat Pat technique actually look like?

Since writing about the Pat Pat technique, I had promised to create a video. So yesterday evening, I invited my dad over to film it “live” during Frankie’s witching hour (which typically starts at 5pm). Dads arrives at 5, punctual as always, and we sit and wait for Frankie to grizzle. And we wait. And we wait some more. And then we wait a bit more. And the clock ticks onto 5.45pm (time for Frankie’s bedtime routine to start) and I end up having to wake her! Thank you Masada 🙂

Frankie - after being rudely woken up by her mother.

Frankie – after being rudely woken up by her mother.

So instead of being able to film a live version of the technique in action, we created a demonstration video with Frankie wide awake. I hope that this helps you understand super clearly how this magical resettling technique actually works.

Before you watch the video, here is a little recap on the technique:

What is it? The Masada “Pat Pat” (as I refer to it as) is a technique you can use to resettle your baby if they wake before they are supposed to (e.g. after a cat nap to help them link sleep cycles, at 5am, when they can’t even get to sleep to start with, etc).

When should you use it? For bubs under 6 months, wait 10 minutes for grizzling, and 2 minutes for crying before you go into the room to Pat Pat. For overnight use, wait 20 minutes for grizzling, and 2 minutes for crying. For bubs over 6 months, you can gradually increase the “cry wait time” by 2 minutes after every time you go in to up to 10 minutes total. Grizzling wait time remains the same.

Who should watch this video? Well, obviously mums and dads should watch it. But also, it could be useful to show to people who look after your baby and need to learn how to resettle it (grandparents, nannies, babysitters, the family dog, and so on).

What if I am too busy to watch your little video? Fair enough: here is a summary of the technique:

Enter the room (and don’t turn any lights on), and do a gentle shhhhh. Don’t say their name (you are not here to play and interact). Then start the Masada Pat Pat. To do this:

1. Place the baby on its side, facing away from you.
2. Say “shhhh” in a calming way (ideally until she/he stops crying).
3. Cup your hands like you are holding an egg and with one hand on the baby’s shoulder and the other on the hip, do a fast pat. Place slightly less pressure on the shoulder pat because it doesn’t have a nappy as a cushion. Count to 100.
4. Change to a slower paced pat. Count to 100. The idea is to bore them back to sleep (and hopefully you don’t get bored to back to sleep while you are doing it).
5. If they are still crying or grizzling, do another round of the slower pats.
6. Keep your hand still on your bub’s shoulder, and then do a single pat on the hip for 50 counts. Start slowing right down for the final few pats.
7. Move the baby back onto it’s back.
8. Walk out. Even if you can hearing grizzling or crying.

Finally, never go backwards in the steps. I asked “why not”? A nurse replied “because you don’t want to be in there all night”. Fair enough. 

And without further ado, here is the video:

Feel free to share it with those who are looking after your little guy/girl using the buttons below. Or you could be all old-fashioned about it and cut and paste the URL into an email and share it that way…

Should you go to Sleep School?

Before going to sleep school, I had no idea that there was actually (in some people’s minds) a stigma associated with sleep schools. Here I was freely telling anyone who would listen about how excited I was to be taking myself and Frankie off to the Masada Mother Baby Unit’s five day residential program, when some people were probably judging the hell out of me. At first, I was surprised to learn about the stigma, but then upon reflection, I can understand where it comes from. As mums, we can be so reluctant to ask for help, because if we ask for help, that obviously means we are not coping and we are therefore a crap mother, right?

Not only is there stigma, but there also seems to be a lot of mystery (“What happens behind the closed doors of sleep school?”) and this was definitely one of my motivations for starting this blog. For example, people talk a lot about the Masada “patting”, but often in vague terms that are not actually that helpful. I know before enrolling in Masada, I was reading people’s blog posts about their experiences and there wasn’t a great deal of concrete information, even though they all sung Masada’s praises.

And finally, I think there are a lot of mums with babies who are not terrible, waking-up-every-hour sleepers, and think: Isn’t sleep school only for those in dire straits? I probably fell into this category.

Aside from the fact I didn’t have a woeful little sleeper, for the first 10 weeks of her life, Frankie would only sleep for chunks of two to three hours at night. Our maternal health nurse had suggested these periods of sleep time would extend by the time Frankie hit about six weeks, but this never happened. Also in the back of my mind was the fact I was returning to work part-time in June, and I kind of wanted to be getting more than three lots of two hour chunks of sleep overnight. You know, just so my brain could actually function and I could improve my post-pregnancy, sleep deprived goldfish-like memory.

So given the above, enrolling in sleep school was a no-brainer for me. And here is the advice I would give to other mums considering whether to go:

  • If you are sick of hearing the advice “sleep when your baby sleeps” (particularly useful advice if your little one doesn’t sleep) and if even trying to stick to this piece of advice is leaving your exhausted: enrol.
  • If you are not sure whether your bub is a “bad enough” sleeper: enrol. Just the fact you are questioning it means that things could be better.
  • If you are going back to work and your bub isn’t giving you enough sleep to be able to function like a normal human being: enrol.
  • If you are worried about the sleep school stigma and are nervous about asking for help in fear that you will be nominated for “worst mother of the year”: enrol. And dump those friends that would judge you for such a decision. Like us mothers need more judgment.
  • And if you are hesitant to enrol because you just have no idea what goes on in a sleep school, you might like to have a read of this blog as I have tried to give an accurate picture of what to expect (at least, what to expect at Masada).

And hey, even if you enrol, you can always pull out if Murphy’s Law strikes and your little one becomes a superstar sleeper. Incidentally, a couple of days after I enrolled Frankie, she slept for a full seven hours – but sadly this was never to be repeated, so we kept out place at Masada.

Have you been to sleep school, or considering going? I’d love to hear what your experience was, or what is stopping you from making the call to enrol…

Our first day at home

Frankie and I arrived home from Masada Sleep School this morning. After an early morning check out at 8am, we said good bye to all the other mums. No one had chained themselves to their rooms (a good sign) and most mums were excited, although a tad nervous, about going home and implementing the tools.

For me, it’s been really lovely being home. The last five days have really felt like living in a safe bubble full of amazing mums and super helpful nurses, but despite this, I didn’t actually feel too nervous about breaking out of the bubble. I ended up getting a bit of practice doing the Pat Pat on Frankie around the 5pm witching hour (as did my husband who came to visit us last night).

For me, one of the biggest changes that has come from Masada is around my mindset when I hear Frankie grizzle or cry. Prior to Masada, anxiety would set in and I would oscillate between thinking “don’t go in to the room – she needs to learn to resettle”, to “pick her up and cuddle her” to “put her in the magical electric swing that makes everything better”. This may sound kind of weird, but now, when Frankie grizzles when I put her down, I feel a bit less emotional and just think “I’ll start the timer for ten minutes and see how we go…”. I feel like I am much more in control (which appeals strongly to my control freak nature).

So today’s report card (in case you are interested!): we have put Frankie down for her three daytime naps. Upon putting her into her Love to Dream swaddle, she grizzled every single time. Just like she did in sleep school. We then started the timer after leaving the room and for all three naps, she self-settled within 5-7 minutes. How cool is that? Very, very cool. In the past, my husband and I would have exchanged looks, and by the second or third minute of her grizzling, one of us would be saying “Should we just put her in the electric swing?” And the other would say “no, let’s wait.” And then a minute later, we would look at each other again and say “Should we just put her in the electric swing?” and then one of us would put her in the electric swing. And then we would feel like naughty parents who were creating bad sleep habits.

We did have a little “nap in the pram” incident today, where during Frankie’s wake time, my husband and I took her for a walk in the pram to get some takeaway coffees from one of our local cafes, and on the way home Frankie started to fall asleep (well wouldn’t you, if you had learnt to associate the pram with sleep? Another bad sleep association…). So the walk home was spent cruelly poking Frankie to try to get her to wake back up (unsuccessfully). Nonetheless, she still was able to nap for a good two hours after her cheeky little pram sleep.

Frankie taking a cheeky pram nap.

Frankie taking a cheeky pram nap.

Over the next three weeks, our aim is to be home a lot to give Frankie as many naps in the cot as possible. Yes, this means we will not be lunching in local cafes or going out on exciting excursions in the real world, but this seems like a small price to pay to well and truly build great sleep habits for our little girl.

Sleep School – Day 5

So after five amazing days at Masada Sleep School, it’s home time tomorrow. From chatting with the other mums, everyone seems excited to be going home. I know I feel like I have a big suitcase full of tools that I can use with Frankie to help her sleep better and be a more predictable little baby.

Frankie had another great night last night. Like a little sleep machine, she self-settled within about five minutes (on her own) after I put her down grizzling loudly at 7pm. I did a dream feed at 11am, and then one of the wonderful night nurses fed Frankie a bottle of EBM at around 3am (and also changed Frankie’s outfit as she had a nappy leak – damn you nappy!). I could see in Frankie’s notes that she was put back down to sleep after all that, wide awake, and apparently was quiet and went straight back to sleep. I then woke Frankie up at 7am to start the day (yes, it is OK to wake your baby), even though she definitely could have kept sleeping soundly.

Frankie wormed her way half up the cot last night.

Frankie wormed her way half up the cot last night.

On the topic of leaky nappies, I got some great advice on that this morning: try putting a cloth nappy over the disposable nappy OR put a second nappy on top of the first nappy. Gold.

I have also now had a few goes of doing the Pat Pat on Frankie. The first couple of times I did it, the biggest problem I ran into is Frankie being a squirmy worm and wanting to roll back onto her back. Frustrating – because both hands are patting and unfortunately I don’t have a third hard to hold her down. I asked what to do and I was given some great advice: first, when positioning the baby on their side, make sure you roll their legs over so they are facing the side (not just their torso/shoulders) and second, use the sheet to cover their shoulders and pull it tight so it keeps them in position while you pat. Using these techniques helped a lot. Also, as a plan B, you can leave the hand on bub’s shoulder secure and just move your fingers to pat on the shoulder (and do the proper pat on the hips). I hope that all makes sense! I’ll try to create a video of what I am talking about over the next few days in case it all sounds like gibberish.

To change the nappy overnight or not? This was a question I had always wondered about. At home, my husband and I would oscillate between obsessively changing Frankie’s nappies through to letting her sit in her wee and pooh overnight to avoid waking her. The answer is: change the nappy if is completely soiled (i.e. it feels really heavy) or if there has been a leak and the bub’s clothes/blanket are wet. Because no one likes to sleep covered in urine.

Time for food.

Time for food.

And here are a bunch of helpful tips I got from yesterday’s big Q&A session (there were plenty of other tips which I will post in the next couple of weeks):

– To blacken out a room (because despite Black Out blinds being called Black Out blinds, they don’t really black out the room at all, do they?), use black garbage bags blu tacked to the window or black art paper. The trick is to have the room completely black until your baby has learnt how to self-settle and sleep well (the length of which differs for every baby).

– Try to book appointments (e.g. doctors appointments) for the afternoon because the morning sleeps are more important, of better quality, and longer. This is also good advice for mother’s groups trying to decide when to meet for coffee – afternoon is better than morning from a bub’s sleep point of view.

– When out and about, bring your bub’s cot toy or comforter that is a sleep cue, and hide it until it is time for them to sleep, and then place it in the pram when it is nap time.

– When I was out walking with Frankie a couple of days ago, she kept falling asleep in the pram even though it was “wake time”. I poked and prodded her (probably looking like a very strange and annoying mother to passers by) to keep her awake. But I was reassured during yesterday’s session and said if they do happen to fall asleep when you are out with them during “wake time” just treat it as a cat nap and get back on schedule when you get home.

– When your baby wakes after every sleep or nap, take them to the window and tell them what time of the day it is (e.g. “It’s morning Frankie, time for breakfast”). Doing these little things will start to get them used to it being day time, and different from night time.

Check out is at 8am, and they have recommended that the baby’s room at home be all ready to go so they can be put down for their first nap as soon as we get home. My husband just called me before to tell me he put up about 30 garbage bags on the windows of Frankie’s room and it is now pitch black. Brilliant.

I’ll keep posting updates on life after Masada. If you are keen to be notified of when a new post is uploaded, just go to the top of the right side tool bar and click on Follow.

I love hearing all your comments and questions. And if you do have any questions before I check out of Masada, please post them below and I’ll try to either answer them myself or ask one of the Masada Nursing gurus.

Time to say bye-bye to this corridor that has become my home over the last five days.

Time to say bye-bye to this corridor that has become my home over the last five days.