The Masada Routine

I remember a couple of months before Frankie was born, I was invited to speak at a “women in business” conference put on by CommBank. Over lunch, I got talking to this amazingly successful mum who had barely taken any maternity leave, and simply worked from home in the early weeks with her bub strapped to her chest. She somehow managed to keep her sanity and get enough sleep to run her business and look after bub. Crazy! I asked her what her secret was (because clearly she had one). She said to me: you must read “Save Our Sleep”. So upon my return home from the conference, I bought Save Our Sleep and read it from cover to cover in about a day. I remember raving to my husband, “Don’t worry, we won’t be one of those sleep deprived couples – we will simply put Frankie on this amazing routine and she will be no trouble at all!” Little did I know that EVERY SINGLE medical professional that we met in the first week of Frankie’s birth said do NOT put her on a routine. She is too young.

So out went my dream of sleeping through the night.

As a consequence, when Frankie entered the world, we resisted any kind of routine. We fed on demand, Frankie slept when she felt like it (at very random times during the day and night), and Frankie decided that she would never sleep for more than 3 hours at a time overnight – and even that was rare.

One of the things I loved most about my Masada experience was getting a routine. Super helpful when I was planning on starting to work from home in the fortnight following. There have been a lot of comments and questions on this blog about routines, so I thought I’d take you through what Masada recommends, and what a 24 hour period in Frankie’s life now looks like.

Here are some of the fundamentals:

1. Feed, play, sleep (FPS) underpins Masada’s theory about routines. I wrote about the FPS routine here and here if you’d like to know more.

2. For Frankie, being three months, her recommended wake time (which includes a feed, then a play) is 1.25-1.5 hours. When she hits four months, this can increase to two hours. She is also supposed to have three naps – the first two should ideally be at least two hours, but not more than three hours.

3. Being in the 3-6 month category, Frankie should feed between 5-6 times per day. For Frankie, because she has not yet doubled her birth weight, six feeds is recommended, with the sixth one being the “overnight” feed (between 3-5am).

So with those general rules in mind, here is A Day in the Life of Frankie Rose Dolan.

7am: Frankie wakes up. And if she doesn’t – we are able to wake her. Frankie does like a bit of a sleep in like her father, so there have been occasions where I have had to waltz into her room at 8am to get her day started.

As soon as she wakes, I’ll do a nappy change and start feeding. Masada recommends starting the feed within 15 minutes of waking, so we adhere to that. I mentioned that Frankie is a bit of a runt and we are desperately trying to fatten her up so I will normally spend about 40 minutes breast feeding her. (FYI – Masada says that the milk bar should only remain open for up to 45 minutes after wake time begins to teach bub that milk does not flow on tap). After feeding, we play.

8.15/8.30am: Frankie goes back to sleep. Interestingly, the nurses at Masada said that if she starts showing tired signs before her minimum wake time of 1.25 hours, then it is okay to put her down 5-10 minutes earlier – but only for this first wake time of the day. Apparently, she will be most tired during this wake time because of the big long chunk of sleep she has just had. That old “sleep begets sleep” nugget…

8.30am-10.30/11am. Frankie sleeps. This nap is meant to be the most important one of the day. If Frankie wakes before the two hour mark, we simply resettle her (using the Pat Pat, as explained here), until she goes back to sleep, or has spent a full two hours in bed.

11am: Feed, play.

Playtime!

Playtime!

12.30pm: Second nap of the day.

2.30pm: Feed, play.

Playtime with Dad: The "who can open their mouth wider" competition.

Playtime with Dad: The “who can open their mouth wider” competition.

4pm: Third nap of the day – and the shortest one. We try to get her to do a couple of sleep cycles – so about 90 minutes.

5.30/5.45pm: Wind down. If you have been following this blog, you may remember that this is the only “wake” time where the Feed and Play order is reversed. So upon waking, Frankie has a bath, then some low key playtime, and then we finish up with a feed so she goes to bed on a full stomach.

7pm: Bed.

Frankie being smothered in a goodnight kiss.

Frankie being smothered in a goodnight kiss.

10.30pm-midnight: We do the dream feed within this window – somewhat dependent on when my husband goes to sleep as he is the one that gets her out of bed for this. We keep the room light to a minimum, and only change her nappy if it is busting out with pooh.

3-5am: Overnight feed. We do this on demand – in that whenever Frankie starts grizzling in this time frame, we do another low key feed (same rules at the dream feed about lights and nappy changing).

And then, rinse and repeat!

I’d love to hear what kind of routines your bubs are on, and if you decide to make any changes after reading this post 🙂

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Two steps forward, one step back

It’s been one week since leaving the safe bubble of Masada, so I thought it was a good time to reflect on how things have been going at home with Frankie. In a nutshell, it has been 90% awesome, and 10% un-awesome. The 90% awesomeness comes from the fact that Frankie is now down for 3 naps every day (and two of those naps are 2+ hours) and has self-settled into every single one herself (no patting required). Same goes for her night time sleeps. This is a big change from pre-Masada, whereby Frankie liked to keep us guessing as to whether she would self settle or whether we would have to bring out the big guns (in our case, the electric swing). Awesome. And on average, post-Masada, we have only had to use the Pat Pat to help her resettle between sleep cycles about two or three times in any 24 hour period – so not much at all.

Yesterday was an un-awesome day. I think Frankie sensed something was in the air. Her loving, doting father has been away since Wednesday as he received some bad news about his own dad, and flew to Adelaide to be with him during the week. He gets home tonight (hooray!), but I think yesterday the exhaustion of looking after Frankie without the help of my wonderful husband finally got to me, along with the toll the week has taken on everyone emotionally. And so Frankie was very unsettled. I had to do the Pat Pat a total of 10 times – a record for the last two weeks – and it felt like she was throwing up half of every feed (not cool Frankie – you need all the milk you can get).

Today, so far, has been back to awesome. It’s coming up to 2pm and only one Pat Pat required. But my point for writing this post is that sleep school, and the weeks proceeding it, are hard work. Masada “warn” people about this, but I think that the “one step backwards” can still be really disconcerting and confusing, especially when it’s 2am and your baby is crying and you are pat pat patting and the crying continues. And you feel like curling up in a ball and crying yourself.

Frankie, back in fine form today.

Frankie, back in fine form today.

All of my Masada “group” have been keeping in touch via Facebook. We all write to each other many, many times every day and keep each other updated on what’s happening. And on the whole, it seems we are all having similar experiences – definite improvements, some really great fist-pumping days, and some really tough times too.

So if you are thinking of going to sleep school, or even if you have been reading this blog and “playing along at home”, please don’t expect the ride to be smooth sailing. The seas are choppy, but I just know it will be worth it in the end.

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.

Sleep School – Day 4

Before I get started, you can now “follow” this blog and get alerted when new posts are uploaded – just go to the right-hand sidebar and click on the “Follow” button. Simple.

I spoke to my parents at about lunchtime yesterday and was telling them (well, boasting) about how Frankie was going. If you read yesterday’s post, you might remember that Day 3 is the day where the mums start to do the settling themselves. We watch a nurse do it a couple of times first, then a nurse observes us do it a couple of times, and then we are on our own. So I said to my parents, “Frankie hasn’t grizzled at all today! I might not get any practice resettling her!” And of course, upon getting back to the hospital room, Frankie starts grizzling like a grumpy old cat. So after watching the nurse settle Frankie a couple of times (successfully), Frankie again turned grizzly towards the end of her afternoon nap. I had my first shot at settling Frankie with the Pat Pat technique and it worked a dream! She grizzled a bit on my exit, but then calmed right down and did another sleep cycle. Amazing. Pre-Masada, I would have (guiltily) put her straight into the electric swing.

The door to Frankie's room. Someone drew a star on it (probably because of Frankie's awesomeness)

The door to Frankie’s room. Someone drew a star on it (probably because of Frankie’s awesomeness)

Last night, all of the fathers came in for a session on settling as it is super important that the baby have consistency with settling techniques. My husband was telling me they were all taught the Pat Pat, and then practised on each other. I guess that fully grown men are similar to babies? The fathers are then allowed to stay overnight, which was nice for my husband to get some time with Frankie before bed and in the morning. It’s awesome that Masada incorporates the world outside of mother-baby to help enforce the techniques we learn here.

Frankie having fun with her dad

Frankie having fun with her dad

This afternoon we have our final group session about life post-Masada. We have also been told that it is Q&A time for us too. So I figure that session will go for about 36 hours.

I continue to bombard all the nurses with questions, so here are a few more things I am learning. And no doubt, tomorrow’s post will be a big one with everything that comes out of this afternoon’s session!

In no particular order…

– A few people have asked on the blog about what to do if the Pat Pat doesnt work. If you find yourself in this situation, and if you have done the Pat Pat three times, then give them a “cot cuddle” (sit them up in the cot and cuddle them until they calm down), and if that doesn’t work take them out of the cot and give them a cuddle until they calm down – then do the Pat Pat routine.

– Someone asked about whether you make any noise when Pat Patting. The rule is – if the baby makes noise, you Shhhh, and if the baby is quiet, you are quiet. Easy. Although not easy to count to 100 when you are also trying to Shhhhh.

– One of the nurses gave us a great piece of advice yesterday. She said “Focus on the (Pat Pat) process, not on the sleep”. If you are in with the baby and all you are thinking is “please get back to sleep”, it is only going to stir you up more – and if you are stirred up, the baby can sense this and it rubs off on them.

– When it comes time to drop the red eye feed (as I call it – that is, the one between 3-5am), the trick is to just resettle them at this time, rather than feed them. It might (apparently) take a few resettles at first, but I have been told to persevere for a few nights and she should start sleeping through. We get to drop the red eye feed when the baby has doubled its birth weight. I think I might feed Frankie some sneaky doughnuts to help speed up this process.

– I always wondered how much time needs to pass when you are timing the grizzle/cry before you reset the clock. The answer is five minutes. For example, if you haven’t heard a grizzle for five minutes, then you re-start the timer for another 10 minutes before going in to resettle (if you need to).

– If your bub wakes at 6am, but you are working on the Masada wake time of between 7-8am, I was told to resettle, and if the baby hasn’t resettled by 6.30am, get them up and start the day.

– Here is a funny one: Frankie always yawns for the first 5-10 minutes of the first feed of the day, without fail. I think to myself, “Frankie you have been in bed for 12 hours – how can you be tired already?!” But apparently, tired signs in the first 5-10 mins of awake time actually means they have had a great sleep! Good to know.

– Masada use Ergo sleeping bags. In case you are interested.

– The maximum nap time Masada recommend is three hours. Any longer than this can throw the day out of whack.

As I finish this post, I am excited to say that I put Frankie down 20 minutes ago for her second nap of the day and although she grizzled for a couple of minutes when I left the room, she has been quiet ever since. Go Frankie!

Our final group session with Q&A time starts in 90 minutes. Keep the comments and questions coming and I’ll try to answer them all (or seek out answers for you)!

A gratuitous bum shot. Just because it is so cute.

A gratuitous bum shot. Just because it is so cute.

Sleep School – Day 3

It’s the morning of Day 3 today which means: time to settle our babies on our own (well, not quite on our own as we have guidance “on tap” from the amazing nurses). Frankie was a little champion last night – I put her down to bed at 7.30pm and while she grizzled like a very grumpy cat when I put her in her Love to Dream suit and then left the room, she self settled within five minutes. This is unheard of in our household. The only times this has happened at home is when we have used “bad” sleeping aids (our electric swing or feeding her until she fell asleep in my arms). I was then woken by the nurse to do a dream feed at 11pm (incidentally, Masada call them rollover feeds) and then a nurse gave Frankie expressed BM at 3am – no grizzling at all: she had to be woken up to feed!. And this morning, she started grizzling a tiny bit at 7.25am so I got her up to start the day. Which means, with the help of a sleeping tablet, I slept for 7 hours straight. OMG. I think the last time this has happened was in my second trimester.

We also had a great session yesterday afternoon where all the mums (there are 20 of us) came together in a room and one of the nurses ran a bit of a group therapy session (I don’t think Masada calls it that – but it’s basically when it was). Some of the mums shared their stories which was incredibly moving. The mums here are truly amazing in what they have been going through and managing to cope with. (Incidentally, when we are in the group sessions and it is feeding time, our babies get brought up to us if they need to be BF, and Frankie always decides it is feeding time during these sessions. So I was feeding Frankie during this particular session while some of the mums were sharing some really heart-wrenching experiences and in the middle of all this, Frankie does the world’s loudest pooh. And then a minute later, does a second one – just for comic effect. She clearly wanted to lighten things up and I am sure she is destined to be the class clown when she goes to school).

Frankie, the loud pooh-er.

Frankie, the loud pooh-er.

So, loud poohs aside, I thought I’d write about a few other things I learned yesterday (it really was information-packed and way too much for one post), so here are some other tidbits:

I know I had a lot of trouble distinguishing the difference between a grizzle and a cry (other than a grizzle sounding like a grumpy cat). A couple of weeks ago I had my amazing friend Monique over (a super duper brilliant mother of four children under 6!) trying to help me decipher whether Frankie was crying or grizzling. And I think that I have now finally got the hang of it: a cry is constant, and a grizzle is not. Grizzles are more like a wave – they stop and start. Also, volume is not an indication of whether it is a grizzle or a cry. Some babies grizzle loudly, while others cry softly.

Up until now, we have been swaddling Frankie in a wrap with her arms by her side. We had a brief break from this when a lactation consultant taught as what my husband and I called “the mummy wrap” (because she looked like a mummy). Masada recommends swaddling until 6-8 weeks, then angel wrapping until 4 months (this is the same as a mummy wrap), and then a sleeping bag from 4 months (when babies start to roll). If you haven’t come across angel wrapping before, this is where the bub gets to sleep with their hands up near their face (exactly like the Love to Dream swaddle for 0-3 months) – the reason for this is so they can self settle by sucking on their hands.

Feed, Play, Sleep is the routine they preach at Masada – which I knew theoretically, but didn’t really practice that well. Frankie and I would start at feed, but so often she would be so tired that we wouldn’t make it to play. And then when I put her down to sleep, she would grizzle and cry because she was overtired. Argh.

BUT – there is one exception to the Feed, Play, Sleep routine, and that is at bedtime where upon waking (at around 6.30pm ideally), we give Frankie a bath, then some low key playing and cuddling, and then finish with a feed (and then a nappy change). The idea behind finishing with a feed is to help her stretch longer until her next feed.

Masada recommend dream feeding (between 10.30pm-midnight) up until the age of around 7-8 months when the bub is well and truly on solids. And until Frankie has doubled her birth weight, we need to feed on demand after the dream feed (typically between 3-5am). I am secretly a bit bummed about this as I was hoping that Masada would magically help Frankie sleep from the dream feed through to 7am. No such luck. Frankie has always been a bit of a runt (in the 15th percentile). She was 3kg at birth and is now 5kg at 3 months – so we still have 1 kg to go until we’ll be getting a bigger chunk of sleep.

Feet out! Frankie pretty much lives in a Bonds Wondersuit and out of habit, we leave her feet covered up. The nurses said for day sleeps, pull her feet out (which we had never done before). The reason for this is because it firstly is a sign that it is daytime (not nighttime) and secondly, they are more likely to overheat in the day from being grizzly and overtired and having their feet out helps them be a bit cooler.

I’ll report back on how I go self-settling Frankie today, and as always, I love hearing your comments and questions!

Sleep School – Day 1

I know that on one of the Facebook Mothers’ groups that I frequent, there are always a lot of posts about sleep and some about sleep school. So I thought that I’d write about my time at Masada, and the things I am learning, in the hope that it helps some other sleep deprived mums out there…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to make the call to Masada Sleep School (aka The Mother Baby Unit). Except for Frankie’s first 24 hours in this world where she slept like an angel and we felt all smug – like we had a GREAT sleeper – she has been an average sleeper at best. Up until a couple of weeks ago, she only managed chunks of around three hours at night, and would have a LOT of trouble self settling during the day – to the point where taking her on a walk in the pram or putting her in our amazing electric swing were the only ways to get her to sleep. Obviously, since enrolling Frankie in sleep school, she has improved quite a bit – we even had one night where we put her down to bed at 7pm, gave her a dream feed at 11pm, and she slept until 7am – OMG! We thought someone had swapped out Frankie for another baby.

So Frankie turns 3 months this Wednesday, and we checked into Sleep School this morning. I gave Frankie a feed, and then she went down to sleep. As I type, I can her her grizzling / crying, and one of the wonderful nurses  is settling her. And I am trying to block out Frankie’s cries from my mind 😦

Frankie hanging out with her rings during "awake" time.

Frankie hanging out with her rings during “awake” time.

The set up at Masada is this – the ward is in a square shape, with rooms for the mums around the outside, and small rooms with a cot in them around the inside. So Frankie is across the corridor from me – which in itself is a strange thing to get used to as Frankie’s bassinet at home is about 1.5 metres from my side of the bed.

Even thought not much has happened yet today (it’s only lunchtime), I have already learnt a few things:

1. The room Frankie is in is pitch black – when the door is closed, she literally can’t see a thing. One of the nurses said this gives Frankie two choices – she can either stare into darkness or sleep. We hope that Frankie will chose sleep. At home, the room Frankie sleeps in is very dark at night, but quite light during the day (even with the blinds shut). I already suspected this before checking in, but when we get home, I think it’s going to be time to move Frankie into her own room and cover the windows in foil to keep all the light out. Also time to move her into a cot too. Even though Frankie is a noisy sleeper (it’s like sharing the room with a 90 year old man), it’s going to be really strange and sad moving her into her own room. God knows how I’ll cope when she wants to move out of home in a couple of decades…

2. Frankie needs to spend more time awake. At three months, Frankie should be awake for between 1 hour 15 minutes to 1.5 hours at a time (including feeding time). I know that this is probably not “new news” to a lot of mums, but we would always put her straight to sleep when she showed tired signs – such as yawning – which meant sometimes she would wake, I would feed her, she would yawn, and I would put her straight back down to bed (not that she would actually go back to sleep or anything…). So when Frankie wakes up next, I’ll feed her and we will play, play, play until the clock hits 1 hour and 15 mins. The nurses said that by the end of the week, Frankie will definitely be awake enough not to start showing tired signs almost as soon as she wakes.

3. I had heard Masada used controlled crying and that this had put some mums off. So I thought I’d report on what they have used with Frankie (which seems to be much nicer than letting the bub cry out). In a nutshell, Frankie is allowed to grizzle for 10 minutes and then a nurse goes into settle her if she hasn’t calmed down. If this escalates to a cry, then they go in after two minutes. Sometimes I have trouble working out what is a cry and what is a grizzle – am hoping to know the difference well and truly by the week’s end. So far I have learnt that a grizzle sounds like a grumpy cat, whereas a cry is louder and more constant (and heartbreaking to listen to!).

If you happen to be reading this blog, I’d love to hear any comments or questions that you have! I’ll try to post once a day and share as much as I can 🙂

My room at Masada

My room at Masada Sleep School.