Ferber Details

It’s been a hot minute, but the real Natalie has a specific request for Ferber details. As if I can remember that long ago! Her sweet nugget is giving the house hell, so in the spirit of “here’s what worked for us,” I present to you: How We Ferber-ed, The Follow Up.

The first thing we did was agree that we wanted to try sleep training, picked the specific method, and decided on when to start. This part is very important if you’re not a single parent– make sure you’re on the same page with your partner since it will likely involve higher emotions for at least a few nights. We both had copies of the Ferber schedule we’d be trying, and I was very up front with my husband about how I dreaded feeling sad about the baby likely being sad. (Spoiler alert: our son was SO much less upset than I’d feared. But talking it out helped ease my mind!) We picked a date that we’d start Ferber-ing, and we went into it as a team.

Secondly, we sleep trained after baby was moved into his own room. I’m not a sleep training expert, but I assume that’s an important part of most methods since you’re baby is not dumb and knows where you are (in the room) and what you’re doing (not comforting them) which will likely make ’em real mad.

The first night, we gave the baby his last bottle, then laid him in his crib. This was already a huge change since we’d gotten to the point of needing so many sleep crutches to get baby to bed: bottle in mouth, swaying/ rocking just so, sound machine– a whole song and dance that, if interrupted, meant starting all over to get baby’s eyes to close. He was out of a swaddle at this point and had been sleeping in a Merlin Magic Sleep Suit for about a month. We still used the sound machine, but that was it– no placating with a pacifier, no special rocking or singing before bed. We closed the door and he cried for three minutes until it was our allotted time to go in and comfort him.

Comforting with Ferber doesn’t mean picking up and rocking, just putting a hand on them so they know you’re there and that it’s ok. It felt a little silly, and of course I wanted to pick him up and let him know YOU ARE STILL LOVED, I HOPE THIS ISN’T PSYCHOLOGICALLY DAMAGING YOU!!!! but we held strong. We only did the soothing for maybe 30 seconds, then left again for a bit longer crying interval. He made it to the next stage of fussing/ crying for five minutes– I think my husband went in to do the soothing that time– and then something magical happened. He fell asleep before we ever hit the next interval (it would have been 10 minutes, which would have admittedly been tough on my heart to ignore.) 

He didn’t sleep through the night immediately, but when he did wake up for a bottle later that night, we started the intervals again, and he fell asleep by himself even faster. We followed the Ferber Method schedule for three nights– he never cried more than 20 minutes total– and then he had his first night of sleeping through the night! (<– There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for how that feels.) The times when he’d cry, I’d tell myself we were helping him learn a valuable life skill: soothing himself to sleep, which he still uses to this day. He figured out how to stick the first two fingers of his right hand in his mouth and calm himself to sleep.

That was seven months ago (crazy to think about) and it truly has changed our lives. Our son did not sleep for his first four months of life. Now he’s a champion sleeper, and we recommend Ferber to anyone who asks because it’s what worked for us. Once we trusted that he really was a through-the-night sleeper, we muted the baby monitor. If he was really awake in the night upset about something, we could hear him from our room and go soothe his nightmare or get him a bottle. We found, though, that there were times he’d wake himself up and fuss or talk to himself for a bit, but then put himself back to sleep. We were waking up because the monitor was on, but then realized he was doing his own thing in there and we didn’t need to be waking up along with him every time he was in a light sleep cycle.

He has since moved out of the Merlin and into a zip-up, sleeveless Halo sleep sack that’s become his go-to sleep association. He knows if he’s going into the sack, he’s heading to sleep for a nap or the night! He’ll sometimes fuss going into it, but quickly pops his fingers into his mouth or starts chewing on the top of the sack and pipes right down. Sometimes he gets a bottle, depending on his feeding schedule, then we turn on the sound machine, lay him down and leave. He falls asleep within 3-5 minutes, if not immediately. If we hear him stirring later, we make sure he’s truly awake and not going to put himself back to sleep before going in and getting him.

Good luck, Natalie. You have a bright future of much better sleep ahead!

Grandma Gear

We are hashtag blessed/ prayer hands emoji to have family nearby who can help out with our son. There are a few items that we’ve found helpful to have as duplicates at my parents’ house- the only place he’s done overnights so far- instead of always packing up our whole house when we go for a visit. Your needs will vary depending on the length of time you’re away from your prime baby set up, but here’s what we’ve found helpful to have at my parents’ place.

Car Seat Base: if there’s someone other than you and your partner who will be regularly driving with the baby, you don’t have to purchase them a separate car seat. For infant car seats, you can purchase an additional base and install it for them. Convertible car seats used to be an absolute nightmare to move from one vehicle to another, but we have no complaints with ours. If we’re leaving our son overnight at my parents, we unbuckle the car seat from my backseat and put it in my moms, just in case they need to transport him anywhere. A good rule is: where the baby is, the car seat should be also.

Pack & Play: my mom found a great deal on a secondhand pack & play so has one, while we never bothered*. It’s been a lifesaver to throw him in that for naps when we’re there, especially now that he’s mobile and would pitch himself off any bed we try to lay him on. *I’ve had to borrow a friend’s for an overnight trip & now realize we totally should have gotten one, so will also be shopping secondhand for one we can take on out of town trips!

High Chair: definitely not a must have– our son would still eat just fine if sitting on my lap– but it’s super convenient that my parents have a high chair for mealtime so we don’t have to pack ours or keep a booster seat in the car. 

Nose Frida: this is highly specific to our situation, but our kid had terrible reflux which causes congestion. We used the Nose Frida multiple times a day in his first 4-5 months, so it made sense to keep a back up at my parents so we didn’t have to always remember to throw it in the diaper bag. If you have specific medical items that it would throw a wrench in your stay if forgotten, it doesn’t hurt to have back ups you can leave there (i.e. baby Tylenol!)

Formula: if you’re formula feeding, keep a tub of your brand at Grandma’s house. If you use a formula pitcher, transport it empty and then mix it upon arrival. I once tried to transport our full formula pitcher on a 45 minute drive. It spilled, and my car smelled like disgusting wet socks for a few days before I lifted the seats and really scrubbed it all out. 

Diapers & Wipes: we always travel with diapers and wipes in the diaper bag, but it’s nice knowing that my mom has a little changing area set up ready to go when we’re there visiting family. She’s also got plenty of extra bibs and burps rags.

Being Extra: our son is the first grandchild, so things can get a bit extra when it comes to making sure he’s surrounded by infant opulence. Once they saw how much he loves his baby swimming pool and canvas tree swing, his grandparents purchased duplicates to have at their house. His favorite toys include empty boxes and a toothbrush, so I’m confident he would survive without a pool at every residence, but it is nice for them to have many activity options when we leave him there for a needed night off.

Summer Walks

Two words: stroller fan.

If you’re building a baby registry, add one for the baby and one to point back at yourself.

We met up with a friend for a stroller walk in the high noon heat of July, and their baby had a little stroller fan pointed at him. I thought, “Oh, to be part of the uppity, high maintenance stroller elite who require a fan for their sweet babe.” Reader? I am an idiot. I needed 18 stroller fans just for myself. Global warming!

My son rarely wears anything except for a diaper these days, and I always have a straw cup with water to offer him hydration breaks when we’re out on walks. We try to go first thing after his breakfast before the Midwest humidity absolutely murders us, but even then, I’ve had to deal with the judgment of neighbors commenting, “Kinda hot out for a baby, eh?” Kindly shove your head up your own butt & mind your own beeswax, MA’AM.

Contradictions

Heavy sigh.

I feel like one of those Instagram cartoons showing a crying mom that has the caption, “You got this, Mama!” (Side note: please never call me Mama unless you are my actual child.) This age has been… not my favorite. Yet it is because he’s so smiley and interactive and CUTE! Just another contradiction to add to the growing list of conflicting feelings that comes with having a child. It would seem that becoming a parent is mostly learning your ability to hold two opposing feelings at the same time.

Tired but alert.

Grateful but annoyed.

Feeling sick over sending him to daycare, yet feeling like you’re going to absolutely go insane if you spend another hour together with a whiny baby at home.

My son is 9.5 months old, a time when separation anxiety sets in (God forbid he be fine playing alone in his playroom that’s becoming dangerously close to our own personal Chuck-E Cheese) and he has a bunch of teeth painfully coming in at once. Add on top of that his new walking skills which are a borderline suicide mission every day (why are their heads the exact height of all furniture corners?!) and it’s a lot of whining and fussing and clinging. Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber was wrong– this isn’t the most annoying sound in the world, the whining of a child who has opinions but can’t yet articulate them is.

I feel like a terrible mom, even though I know I’m not. I don’t need Mommy Wine Time, and I don’t need any well-meaning friends reminding me I’m doing a great job. It just… is. I’ve gotta feel the feelings, take breaks when needed, and remind myself that this adorable, precious ball of annoyance isn’t doing this to me on purpose. He’s being a baby. I wanted a baby, and it’s ok to want to be a parent and love the role while also saying, “Holy cats, this blows right now.”

A wise friend told me that she doesn’t believe in Mom Guilt. The definition of guilt is that you’ve done something wrong, yet all of the things we parents feel guilty for usually aren’t actual crimes we’ve committed. She’s reframed it to calling it Mom Love. Feeling “guilty” because you went back to work and baby is at daycare? It’s actually because you love them so much and are sad you don’t get to see them; you also might be worried about someone else taking care of them. Feeling “guilty” because baby was walking towards you and took a hard smack into the coffee table? You didn’t push him– you love him and want him to be safe, so your “guilt” is love because you don’t want him to feel pain.

So I’m trying really, really hard not to feeling guilty about any of my feelings during this stage of my son’s life. I know it’s cliche but true that one day he won’t be constantly tugging at my leg and wanting my attention, and I’ll be wishing so hard for the days when he was this small and needy again. There is no great answer to any of this, other than to continue to love your kid(s), which I know you and I both will, and to continue to love yourself enough to not self-flagellate over the myriad contradictory feelings parenthood brings about.

First Steps

I erroneously believed that the big milestones in baby’s life would be easy to identify and document on a calendar. A family member saw an Instagram story video in which my son was walking and asked, “He’s taken his first steps?!” A long time ago! But did we classify it as fully walking? Not really. Apologies to all interested parties that I didn’t send an “HE’S WALKING!!” update. (I’m not actually sorry. That would be annoying, and I would unsubscribe from myself.)

I don’t have a date for Baby’s First Steps because the journey to bipedalism has been a whirlwind of half crawling, peg legging (his preferred method was crawling on his right knee while walking on his left foot & yes, the doctor says that’s completely fine) pulling to stand on absolutely everything, cruising along furniture, taking a few tentative steps then lowering back down, and now, finally, walking all over the house

The same goes for rolling. One of my friend’s babies rolled from back to front at five weeks and then not again for a couple months. So does that mean she can roll? Who cares! First words are much the same. If baby gets out “Mama” one time, but then goes back to shrieks and incoherent babbles for a few days, does “Mama” count as his first word? Especially if he said it to a wall or a toy and not me?

Don’t get me started on the guilt I have that my child can walk at what is considered an advanced age. I know a ton of people who had babies a few months before him, and their kids aren’t walking yet. I have to remind myself that this all means absolutely nothing. He’s been a very physical kid from the start, and we had people telling us for months, “Watch out for this one! He’s just gonna take off one day!” If he ever gets a sibling, I know I’ll have to do some serious inner work to not compare the two and the timing of all their firsts.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in a gaggle of women who birthed during the pandemic– which is still going on, by the way! And pregnant women who choose not to get vaccinated are dying of COVID! So GET THE VACCINE– is that absolutely every baby is different, they do stuff at different times, and it absolutely does not matter. It’s not a reflection on you as a parent, it doesn’t mean your baby is destined for greatness or failure, it’s literally just a small, new person developing life skills that will all even out later on.

Thank Your Nurses

I’ve expanded my hours at the local hospital and now get to be on the maternity floor a few times a week (ask me how second baby fever is going.) I’m surrounded by the nursing team thus feel qualified to tell you their favorite ways to be thanked.

If you’ve already been through labor, you know that nurses are the real MVPs of the process. Sure, a doctor may have caught your baby and sewn you up, but the nurses are the ones with you day and night. They see more parts of you than anyone else ever has, they don’t bat an eye at the myriad fluids and smells and sounds emanating from your bloated meat suit, they put up with all sorts of dumb questions and emergencies and chart documenting all while they likely juggle more than one patient. If you had a great hospital experience- or even (especially?) if you didn’t, but you’ll always remember that one nurse who made things better for you- please pass along your thanks.

1- Nurses love food. They’re working long hours, often hustling around on their feet all day lifting and supporting and rolling birthing people who might be dead weight from an epidural. They need to eat, but don’t get much (any) time to do it. When patients send food, they cheer. “What room is this from?” “What kind of cupcakes are those?” “Are there any more granola bars in that gift basket?!” Both sugar treats and healthier foods are appreciated. We had one couple order in pizzas to the break room during dinner time! Some parents get real creative and drop off baskets with Diet Coke cans, trail mix, fresh fruit & string cheese; others have the local bakery deliver a box of donuts or cupcakes. All is appreciated. Including a card with your names and/or room number & date of stay will help jog their memories.

2- A thank you note. Yes, they really do read them and yes, sometimes they cry. If you’re a words person and just need to emote, don’t feel silly writing a card or letter to your nursing staff or those one or two individuals who really made the experience for your family. So many inpatient units around the country are understaffed and these people are being stretched to their limits– a little personal reminder about why they do this work in the first place can go a long way.

3. Nominate them for a DAISY Award. The DAISY Award can be given across the country to recognize excellence in nursing. Even if your nurse isn’t chosen as a winner, they’ll get recognized for being nominated by their employer. The nomination form is super simple, and it’s an easy way to let someone know they really made a difference for you and your family during labor, delivery or postpartum.

4. Sorry- no cash. Not that I think you’re out here entrusting Benjamins in the hands of the postal service in the year of our lord 2021, but also be leery of giving gift cards. Your hospital likely has a policy in place capping the amount of a gift that one individual employee can receive, so if you’re trying to think outside the box, this isn’t the time. Stick to food & praise. We had one dear patient try to give a nurse a large gift card to buy a specific pair of shoes because they heard her mention needing new ones. So, so appreciated! But also against the rules. (Don’t worry- the gift card was moved along to the hospital foundation to purchase items for patients in need.)

Don’t Send Flowers

To the friends and family members of people who have just given birth: do not send flowers to the hospital.

This isn’t a commentary on “flowers die, pizza gift cards live forever” (but seriously, food > flowers.) Send whatever dying soon flowers you want, or a potted plant, or a beautiful orchid– it’s none of my business! Just send it to the house and not the hospital.

Hospital rooms might not be the prettiest place one could ever sleep, but hopefully parents will only be spending up to three nights there. The patient will be too sleep-deprived and in love with their newborn(s) to care if a floral bouquet is brightening the bedside table. When they leave, they will have an absolute armload of things to carry out. Duffel bags of clothes, the Boppy they thought they’d use but probably didn’t, packets of newborn info with copies of hospital consents, plus a car seat holding a very fresh baby. They don’t have the arm space to also load up the car with your well-intentioned detritus.

Feeding Solids

Baby will be eight months old next week which means he’ll have been eating solid foods for half his life. Below is some advice I feel I can give based on our experience. Per the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started introducing purees when he was four months old. This will differ for every child, so please trust the advice of your doctor instead of a random person on the Internet.

We made the decision to start him at four months because baby was getting very interested in what we were eating, was able to sit up with assistance, and just generally thought he was a way older baby so wanted to eat solids NOW, dammit! He’s been a champion eater since he came out of the womb, and his journey with solid foods has been no different. If it were up to him, he’d be bellying up to the table with us at every meal and have kissed bottles good-bye already. We have yet to find a food that he won’t eat (seriously) including fish, mushrooms, beets, corn on the cob, tikka masala… he’s a goat. A really cute, messy goat.

  • The Internet can be a scary place when it comes to information about introducing solids. Some people get absolutely militant about baby led weaning (BLW), some people are terrified of their kids choking and only feed purees for the first year, some people read about all the metals found recently in baby foods and put off introducing solids as long as possible. Protect your mental health when sourcing info! Make sure it’s coming from a reputable source, make sure you’re truthful with your doctor and aren’t afraid to ask questions, and be prepared to unfollow the trendy baby food Instagram accounts, if needed.
  • I wish we had registered for those silicone bibs with the built in food-catching trough. I figured “meh, a bib’s a bib” but WRONG-O, new mom self. The journey from spoon or hand to actual digestion is a chasm greater than the Grand Canyon. The more comfortable baby gets with non-purees, the more food will end up in their lap, on the floor, and under the cushions of their high chair. The more you can catch in their bib, the less you’ll be scraping off the floor after baby has gone to bed. Still pregnant Natalies, add these to your registries!
  • Incorporate baby’s food into how you already eat. If you loathe cooking, don’t put the pressure on yourself to make all of your kid’s food homemade. If Friday night is sacred pizza delivery time for you and your partner, start letting baby suck on the crusts or pick off a few olives and squish them up for baby to try. If it’s daunting to think of new foods to puree, or you don’t have a food processor, think of already soft foods you don’t have to transform after you get home. Items like avocado, ricotta cheese (lower in sodium than other cheeses!) canned pumpkin, yogurt, etc. are baby friendly right out of the package & you can eat them, too.
  • I won’t be giving any advice on introducing allergens because that’s medical grade info I’m unqualified to preach to you about!
  • Start with a little, then add more if they eat it. If you scramble a whole egg for baby, only put a bite or two on their high chair tray. If they eat it, give them some more. Until you know they’ll eat the whole thing, you end up wasting a bunch of food because it’s not that appetizing to eat the remainder after a baby has glommed all over it. Similarly, I’ll plan my breakfast and baby’s together. If I know he’s good for half an egg, I’ll set aside the other half- not covered in baby drool- to eat with my toast. If your baby is like mine, they’ll be more interested in eating if they see you eating along with them.
  • Pack snacks in your diaper bag when you’re going on outings. Even if you read Bringing Up Bebe and don’t believe in giving kids snacks between meals, as they get more active, they’re harder to keep entertained at a restaurant booth or in the car. Have some rice teethers, one of those puree pouches, or even pickles (our kid loves sucking on pickles on road trips) packed with you to give them something to work on. They’ll develop hand-to-mouth skills and keep quiet for longer!
  • Your dining area will get messy. Your kid will get messy. There will be food waste as your child learns to not open their hand over open air and let food fall. You’re gonna need to breathe and try to accept these things. You can look at this as a fun opportunity to teach baby the lifelong skill and enjoyment of eating! You’re both learning together. There will be times when baby grabs the spoon and really wants to feed themselves, but ends up with peanut butter yogurt in their hair, or rubs their sleepy eyes with a hand covered in applesauce. Accept that there are a lot more baths in your future, and keep some baby washcloths near the sink so you can do a post-meal wipe down.

Baby Towels

You know what you don’t need? Baby towels.

Sure, they’re adorable because they come with little corner pocket hoods that make your kid look like a duck or a dinosaur.

But you know what I bet you already have? Towels. Regular-sized towels that won’t outgrow your kid in six months.

Take baby towels off your registries, still pregnant people, and add wipes (can never have too many) or restaurant gift cards for you or straight cash money instead.

Product Recs for Not Baby

I don’t have any insightful recommendations for an almost-mobile baby except a wing and a prayer. However, I have recently discovered a few things I’ve been loving for myself that I’ll pass along to you!

  • Vital Proteins Collagen. I’d heard of people taking collagen, but never much thought about it for myself until I saw it at Aldi (the holy grail of grocery stores; if you haven’t been- GET THEE TO ALDI.) I asked in my Instagram stories if people had good experiences to share & a ton of people said, “yes, girl– collagen is the sh*t.” I can now report, after getting through my first container and buying more, that I am also fully in the collagen cult. My postpartum hair loss seems to have subsided, and I can tell when shaving my legs that all hairs are now growing at quite a quick rate! My nails are growing faster and stronger. Some people say collagen helps with their joints, but I permanently feel like I’ve been hit by a truck from lifting my child all day, so I don’t have any anecdotal evidence to pass along there. The unflavored kind isn’t completely hidden in just water, but many respondents said they mix it in coffee & can’t taste it. My second flavor has been strawberry lemonade since all the other flavors sound like barf, and it’s decent enough to sip on a whole glass without issue.
  • Australian Gold BB Cream Sunscreen. I used to be pretty good at putting sunscreen on my face in the mornings, but something about pandemic weariness + pregnancy laziness got me out of the habit. I’m spending more time outdoors than ever before now that baby likes to constantly be in motion, but have very sensitive skin so can’t go throwing on any old sunblock that’s been in the back of a drawer since 2018. This product was recommended to me on a skincare forum and I LOVE it, mostly because it’s an SPF + BB Cream in one. I got the lightest shade- “Fair to Light”- and it matches my Casper-like skin tone well enough that I could wear only this for the day if I’m not doing a full beat. It’s not greasy- you definitely need to moisturize beforehand since it’s pretty matte- but I don’t think twice about “ugh, sticky sunscreen” because it’s more like fun makeup than a skincare obligation.
  • Poke Cake. Ok, this isn’t really a product, but my birthday is in two days, and I’m making myself a poke cake. If you have any backyard gatherings planned this summer, or just want a stupidly easy, cooling dessert to have on hand around the house (and you do want that because you deserve that) Jello-O Poke Cake is! the! answer! You can make it with any flavor of Jell-O! And technically any flavor of cake! I’m doing white cake + cherry, but my old favorite is white cake + strawberry. My step-grandma makes it with yellow cake + orange Jell-O, and I give that combo all the thumbs up as well. Probably don’t make it with chocolate cake because that flavor would overpower your choice of Jell-O? You could do lemon cake + lime Jell-O if you’re a fake citrus-loving weirdo, but that’s more tang than I prefer in my treats.