They say that hindsight is 20-20.
As I look back to Ezra’s babyhood, I now see that his neurological differences were apparent from day 1. He hated to sleep and thus fought it with a vengeance, needed intense sensory stimulation (especially proprioception), lacked self-soothing capabilities, and struggled with independence.
This is who he was born to be. Nothing I did or didn’t do in mothering him would have changed that.
I do feel that the way I parented, especially in regard to my bent toward “attachment parenting”, (although sometimes born out of necessity), exacerbated his problems. At the very least, I feel it delayed him in developing the necessary coping skills for life that we are having to (still) teach him now.
In all honesty, I daily struggle with fear that our second baby, Little Brother, will end up having the same struggles that Ezra does, simply because he is also our genetic offspring.
So far, it appears that his personality and inner wiring are developing a little bit more “typically,” but I’m also very focused on giving him good coping skills for life, at an earlier age. So here’s a few things I’m doing differently with Little Brother:
I tried giving Ezra a pacifier when he was about 4 weeks old, after our nursing nightmare was over and we had feeding established, as was the recommendation from lactation consultants. He refused it every time.
When Little Brother was in the hospital, wowza did he want to suck. That last day in the hospital all he did was nurse nurse nurse. And I was MISERABLE. Finally, a nurse took pity on me, stuck a glove on her hand, and let him suck on her finger. Because the hospital I delivered in was “Baby Friendly,” they were not allowed to offer a baby a pacifier unless the parents provided one. But she told me quietly, “He might be a baby who really likes the pacifier.”
I was prepared to stop at CVS to get one for the ride home, but thankfully he was content with my finger. But that night, at 2 days old, I put him in the crib with a paci I had got at a baby expo (since all of the pacis I had tried with Ezra were still in storage), and he went RIGHT TO SLEEP. I was in awe.
Since then, we have continued to use the paci to help Little Brother soothe on his own while falling asleep (rather than nursing), and I have felt much saner this time around.
Encouraging wake time after feedings
This is something that’s a bit harder with a breastfed baby, but around 6 weeks I started to follow the Eat Awake Sleep routine I found online (originating with the Baby Whisperer book although I didn’t read it), at least during the day. If he did fall asleep during feeding, I would change his diaper to rouse him and get him excited about being awake again.
Encouraging independent crib playtime
This was something that Little Brother sort of directed me into when he started smiling. His face started lighting up during diaper changes (around the 6 week mark). Since he loved being naked so much, I started putting him in his crib, naked, after each diaper change. And then I would walk out of the room. Surprisingly, he would be happy for approximately 10-20 minutes before he would start crying for attention.
(Again, this is something I doubt Ezra would have done even if I had tried this…)
Encouraging floor time
As Ezra has serious fine motor delays and some gross motor delays, I have been incredibly focused on giving Little Brother a lot of independent time on the floor, including the dreaded tummy time.
I have let him be frustrated with it (longer, the older he gets), and as of right now (4 months and 5 days), he is very rapidly working his way toward an Army crawl. His core is stronger, and he is better at motor planning than Ezra was at even 6 or 7 months.
Working the routine
While I pretty much hate routine, I have found it necessary for all of the members of our family. Little Brother has fallen into the routines we already have in place, it was just a matter of getting him on a good routine during the daytime hours he has with me while Ezra is in school.
By about the 8 week mark, his daytime routine looked like this:
- Upright time in chair to help with reflux and encourage poop
- Diaper change
- Naked crib time
- Get dressed
- Floor time until fussy
- Rock with paci to go to sleep
Changes as he has gotten older
Now, he poops less, gets even more independent time, and I’ve been slowly working on giving him crib time instead of rocking to sleep. Sometimes he falls asleep with the paci and light projector / lullaby thing that we have. Sometimes he gets fussy, and I’ll still rock him – but I try to lay him down sleepy first to see if he can self soothe.
Luck of the draw, Little Brother was giving me 4-8 hour sleep stretches at night by the time he was 6 weeks old. This is not me bragging. I did nothing to make this happen. He just did it. (I understand if you are jealous. Ezra’s mother is very jealous of Little Brother’s mother…just sayin…)
Until about 2 weeks before Christmas, 3 1/2 months. Then his nightwakings became more frequent. By that 4 month milestone, he was waking up every 2 hours and having a very hard time settling after feedings (whereas before, he would settle right back down after about 10 minutes of nursing).
I am severely sleep deprived, frustrated – and this does not help me manage Ezra’s most recent behavioral regressions.
Dr. Google tells me that apparently the 4 month sleep regression is a VERY REAL THING and actually a very positive developmental milestone. The infant is changing his sleep patterns to be more like those of an adult, so waking up after every sleep cycle is the natural result.
Last night, I decided that I would move Little Brother from sleeping in the bassinet in our bedroom to his crib in his own room. I figured, he already spends a lot of positive time in his crib, it couldn’t hurt to try. He also has been doing a LOT of rolling around and seemed to like the extra space during the day.
(This is something we eventually did with Ezra at 7 months, and I had already planned to move Little Brother closer to the 6 month mark.)
I removed all the toys, moved the night lights and the Christmas lights, moved the air purifier (white noise), got the futon set up for me to sleep in if he needed help, and prepared for another sleepless night.
After he had some crib/soothing time, I nursed him to sleep and laid him down about 11PM. I didn’t hear a peep out of him until 4:20 AM.
Now, chances are, especially since I have blogged about this, he will not replicate said behavior again tonight. But a mom can hope.
I think his personality is such that he does better with independence, but this is also something I’m trying to instill in him at a younger age. We will see how it goes moving forward.
Not happening. While I wore Ezra pretty much everywhere until he hit about 18 pounds, Little Brother isn’t that big of a fan. It worked well when he was smaller and he was content in the cradle hold, but he doesn’t like being worn facing me in the hug hold. So I’ve totally embraced the stroller / carseat combo without guilt! This also encourages independence.
(Also, doing all your grocery shopping online really helps because that’s one place it is hard to manage with a carseat or stroller.)
A final note
Special needs like ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder cannot be prevented or fixed with a certain style of parenting or other individual parenting choices. They are neurological differences that exist in the brain, and at least ADHD has been linked to genetics more than anything. So Little Brother is either going to have these struggles, or he isn’t.
What I can hope is that the same routines and boundaries that we have learned and are using NOW to help Ezra learn good coping skills, social skills, and independence can also help Little Brother learn to cope with life in healthy ways at a younger age, regardless of how his brain will end up working.
The other important thing for moms to remember is that your parenting choices are your choices, and you are going to come to them based on your own experience of what works for your children. Each child is an individual with individual needs, and you have to treat them that way.