Friday, May 4, 2012

I Think I Have a Spirited Baby

For a while now, Jeff and I have referred to one specific type of Sam's cries/screams as the "bratty cry." This particular cry comes mostly from - we suspect - boredom and the desire for more attention NOT hunger, needing a diaper change, or tiredness.  After Sam's colicky start to life (he cried pretty much all the time for two and half months), we are kind-of experts on his cries.  We're also pretty tolerant of crying and still consider him "good" and "easy," because we know how bad it can be.

BUT... Recently, his bouts of "bratty crying" have been becoming more and more frequent, and my Mommy Guilt Meter is cranked WAY up.  I feel absolutely awful when he is so upset - What if he is in pain? What if he is scared? What if he thinks I've abandoned him? What if he stops breathing? Are we feeding him enough?  Is his tummy upset?  Are his teeth bothering him? But, at the exact same time, I'm also genuinely worried that by responding to his fits, I am "creating a monster" so to speak. If I am a bad mom for letting him cry, aren't I also a bad mom for teaching him that crying equals getting what he wants every time or just plopping him in front of video so I don't have a nervous breakdown?  Seriously, is there any winning in this role?

As you are likely well aware, sleep has not been a strong suit in our home for, ohidon'tknow, the last nine months. I dream of a baby that wakes up and coos.  Seriously. Our man has a crazy middle-of-the-night shreiking/screaming routine that he seems to be quite content to continue for the rest of his life...

You probably also remember me mentioning last week that we were finally going to start some sleep training because. 1.) I firmly believe that Jeff and I would be better parents if we were sleeping.  And, 2.) I knew we had a trip coming up this weekend and Sam would be staying with my parents for two nights. I absolutely cringed at the thought of them having to deal with these night fits.  Well, as of last night, we have been "Ferberizing" (or some version of that) for one week.  And, it is... going.  Things are better - we've even had two glorious eleven hour nights, which has only just proved to me that he is capable of sleeping - but most nights he is still waking 2-4 times and, even though we aren't going to him anymore, definitely still screaming.  Sometimes bloody murder.  Shouldn't we be past this by now? Most books say the method begins to work in 3-5 nights tops. Is he not ready?  Or, worse, too far gone?

The behavior isn't just at night either... Lately, he also screams when we put him in his carseat, when we don't feed him his solid foods fast enough or he wants more, when he is ready to get out of his highchair or bouncer, and - especially - when we are trying to hold him still for a diaper or outfit change. Of course he isn't always upset.  MOST of the time, he is our happy, smiling, belly-laughing, boy; but, if I'm being honest, more often than I want, he is kind-of bratty.  (Mom Guilt Meter just almost BROKE for saying that.) 

Of course, here's the thing... I'm not mad at Sam about this at all.  The truth is, I take it all very personally... I feel like I have done something wrong to develop this "habit," or at least that I'm a bad mom because I can't figure out what he is trying to tell me.  When I talk to moms of babies that sleep through the night or "never cry," I don't feel jealous as much as I feel inadequateWhat secret do they know that I don't?

Then yesterday, I read about the "Spirited Baby" (as defined by Tracey Hogg, The Baby Whisperer, and described here), and I was able to sigh a little sigh of "it's not just me."  It was almost Sam to a t.  Ahhhhhhh. (That's a sigh, not a scream, for the record.)

I had heard the term spirited or high need used to describe babies before; in fact, it popped up a lot in my reading during Sam's fussy first few months; but this time it really resonated.  Before, I kind-of thought it was ridiculous that a baby could just be born with a personality like that; but, now, I think mine just might have been...

My name is Elizabeth, and I think I have a Spirited Baby. 

So... here's where you come in.
I don't want sympathy or praise; but I DO want some help...

Have any of you had spirited babies?  How did/do you handle temper tantrums at this age?  When did you start disciplining and how?  Does this sound like his nature, habit, or like something is wrong?  Advice is welcome.

And one little request: I know this is a sensitive subject and many people feel very passionately one way or the other about discipline and crying.  I'm fine with a little disagreement, but let's keep it friendly, ok?
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  1. My baby (now 8 years old) slept through the night from very early on. Yes, I did all the things they tell you to do, but he was just a good sleeper, so it made it much easier for me to "follow the rules". Had he woke crying, I'd have suffered the same struggles as you. LUCK... that's how I see it. Sounds like you're a great mom and you try very hard. Sam is very lucky! All that said, I've read a similar story on Little Miss Momma's blog ( Her little one recently had his adenoids removed due to sleep apnea. I'm not saying that's the issue with Sam. Just saying maybe you could read through her blog and see if any of it sounds familiar, aside from the waking shreiking part. She also read a book that helped her determine their potential issues and she mentioned it at some point. I'm sure she'd be more than willing to share information if you think you need it! Hope this helps, good luck!

  2. Let me begin by saying that our first child was a dream. Rarely cried. Slept allll through the night AND took 2 huge naps each day. I really thought I was something special. "Wow, look at how well I've done. My baby is perfect. Yadda yadda yadda." And snobby me thought that since we had done such a marvelous job with 1 child, we should certainly bless the world with another. Enter Mr. Grumpy stage right! Our 2nd child quickly put us in our places. Despite parenting him in a similar way, he took much longer to sleep through the night and spent more of his first year screaming through nap time as opposed to sleeping. Even now, at 21 months old, he follows me around with his chubby arms raised in the air and throws a fit if I'm too busy to pick him up. To be honest, I haven't read any literature about how I'm "supposed" to handle it. Instead, I follow my heart. He's my baby and he obviously wants his mommy. So 90% of the time, I give him just what he wants. 8% of the time I tell him that I'm sorry but he'll have to wait a few minutes. And 2% of the time, I sneak into our bedroom closet and scream because my child won't leave me along for one $#%^%$# second! ;) And then I think of how his spirited personality will be such an asset to him later in life and I go get him, snuggle him, and tell him that I'm glad God made him so much like his momma!

  3. Hey friend. I don't really have any advice (sorry), but I do know that you're definitely not a bad mom and you are THE most adequate person for the job of being Sam's mom. If it's any consolation, I think Sam is just at the age when he is starting to be really aware of what he wants and when he's not getting it (as far as the crying at dinner time, in carseat, etc). Maybe that's just what is happening at night too? He wakes up and knows what he wants to comfort him - YOU - and is just going to scream until he gets it. Once he learns to soothe himself back to sleep, you at least won't have to worry about that at night anymore... all the day-time "bratty cries" will probably still happen til he's like 5. ha. Rest assured he is not too far gone to learn anything. We did it a little earlier, but I think a lot of people start CIO around now (or even later) and babies can definitely still learn to go to sleep on their own - at any age it seems. Good luck friend! Keep us posted. Can't wait to see you guys in a few weeks!

  4. I am a believer in crying it out. I will write a longer response when I use the other computer but I wanted you to know you are not alone! Somedays I feel like my neighbors may call CPS on me!

  5. I could have written this post. In fact, as I type this, my own "spirited" soon-to-be 9 month old is screaming in his crib instead of taking a nap. And I know exactly what Katie is talking about with feeling like the neighbors are going to call CPS because of the screams.

  6. My name is Meghan, and I have a spirited baby...who is now a spirited toddler. :) She never slept like the babies I read about in baby books, although I did try various sleep training methods. The screaming stopped when she started talking. Once she could express herself, she mellowed out A TON! So, I know that's not really advice, but maybe just a little sneak peek at what is to come for Sam. I just had a second baby a few weeks ago. I reread all the baby books, as I certainly didn't want to "mess up" this next one. But guess what? She's totally different. Super mellow - almost a dream baby. Just like the ones you read about in those darn baby books. Crazy, right? But I guess it wasn't really anything I was doing wrong after all...just like it isn't you. :)

  7. I am not a CIO mom. I sleep whenever I want, so I don't force Luca into naps for this reason. Because of this, Luca does not take an afternoon nap. He's up at 6, naps from 11-1, and we are done with our bedtime routine at 8:30. He likes a little extra cuddling but he's usually asleep by 8:45 and sleeps until 6. So basically, my method is I let him figure out how much sleep he needed, and once I recognized his tired cues, I could easily figure out how to react: bottle and cuddling. So, we've settled into a great routine. Not every baby needs the same amount of sleep, so to set them into a rigid schedule is not conducive to the baby. However, I know this system is not for every parent or every baby. But, he, too, is a spirited baby and I just found this the best solution to keep everyone sane and Mommy gets a solid 9-10 most nights.

  8. I'm not a CIO mom either. I think babies cry because that's the only way they know how to communicate. A lot of people say that they're being manipulative if they aren't hungry or need a diaper change, etc. I just don't think that's a reality because I don't think they think on that level yet. I just believe babies are so much more carnal than that. They're focused on getting their immediate need met and sometime that need is just for companionship or comfort...unfortunately, even in the middle of the night. I also think that unfortunately you just don't read a lot of women sharing stories about babies who are needy. Because, like you, women feel like it means they're not doing something right, or because someone will share unsolicited advice when what they're really looking for is moral support, and also because you really do forget some of those details once they've passed. My son didn't sleep through the night until 11 months. He never wakes up from a nap happy. He is always PISSED. From what I've read, that means he's still tired, but even when I know he's not tired, he still cries when he first wakes up. It's just who he is. All of that being said, I still think a mama's sanity is key. I do think comforting the baby when it cries helps it to establish trust, etc, but if you're about to go crazy, you have to do what you have to do. I hope that you all find a solution. At Sam's age, you've already done so much to establish that trust and comforting relationship with him, a little crying won't kill him...especially if it means that you're in a better place mentally. Maybe by helping Same to voice his needs as you meet them for him, whether by voice or by baby signs, you may help him to find other ways to communicate besides screaming.

  9. I am right there with you, in fact, your post a few days ago prompted my looking up the Ferber method. I discussed crying it out with Hollin's Dr. a few days ago and she gave me the go ahead. She said not to do it until I was ready though because it would be hard. I haven't started it during the night yet. I just need to get my "mind right." I have attempted letting her cry it out during the day when I feel I can better handle it. It just isn't working. She doesn't stop crying. I have classified Hollin as high maintenance for awhile now. I think I just need to accept it although I can't get a thing done during the day. Literally.

    One day (I hope) it will get better! Just know you aren't alone :)

  10. Elizabeth, I've been following your blog for a while now, so thank you for sharing your experiences with Sam! I was glad I found you because my baby boy, Benjamin was born just a few weeks after Sam (Aug 2), so they are almost the same age. It's been fun to see another little boy B's age develop, and how another working mom handles with the rewards and challenges of being a first time mommy. While my first couple of months probably looked a little different than yours (mine slept fairly well), he has always been, well, for lack of a better word, needier, than most. He would cry if you put him down, only slept in our arms, etc. I could go on and on, but I'd run out of room :). Recently (very recently), I decided to try a version of Ferber too. I was adamantly against any CIO and read the No Cry Sleep Solution, but nothing was working. It got to the point B wasn't sleeping in his own room, and he wasn't even sleeping well in our bed OR arms, so something had to change. Like you guys, no one was getting any sleep, and that's not good for anyone. (If I'm telling the truth, the other thing that prompted me to try this was we had to lower the mattress in his crib, and I couldn't reach down low enough to place him in the crib without waking him, lol) I read the Sleep Lady book and basically modified it to fit us. Without boring you with all the details, the first night was torture, and every night subsequent was better. We even had some 10, 11, even 12 hour straight sleep sessions! I was amazed and proud of him (and me) and it gave me confidence to keep going. Recently he's been waking again in the middle of the night, but I wonder if he's going through a growth spurt, because I will nurse him and he falls back to sleep fairly easily. There have been plenty of times he wakes up screaming, or starts screaming if I don't pick him up, so believe you me, I know that cry! I even read about "spirited" or High needs/high touch babies, but even though Benjamin has some of the features, he doesn't have all. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and I'm right here with ya on this sleeping, screaming roller coaster! I wish I had more suggestions, but I don't yet. I'll keep you posted if I find the magic pill. :)

  11. I for sure have a "spirited baby" turned spirited toddler. I started to recognize it when I got comments from almost everyone about her constant movement, which started right after she was born. They couldn't even keep her swaddled in the NICU and they're experts there. My little girl doesn't really have sleeping issues but she was one who HATED to go to sleep. We did CIO and it did work. She was a 30-45 minuted crier though. It just took 3 nights and her crying decreased each night. I don't know whose method it is but we did check on her and lay her back down every 10 minutes.

    The screaming seems to go in phases and unfortunately I have twins so her calm brother would mimic and I'd have two screaming in the middle of a store. She stopped for awhile and has now started screaming when she is happy, when she is mad and really just when she feels like it. I often feel like I've created a brat too but I react the same way to her brother and he is as calm as a 15 month old can be. I think she is just more needy of attention.

    (It isn't all bad though. She seems to be more in tune with other's emotions, is the first to wave to strangers and is a sweet, sassy girl with a HUGE personality.)

  12. I also have a "spirited" child and read this AMAZING book called "raising your spirited child" Saved my life. true story.


Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!

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