Friday, May 18, 2012

Q&A: Sleep (or lack thereof)

I received the following question from reader Janine the other day, and decided to dedicate a post to answering because I think this is a subject that resonates with so many of us. Sleep!

Dawn I have to ask, what method or strategy did you use? I've been following yours and Carli's blog since you're both paleo, realistic and have babies the same age group as mine (he's 7 months old, 100% paleo, bad sleeper). I read Carli's post on her success with sleep. Lucky girl. Any chance you can post your sleep journey?

Hi Janine! Thank you so much for your question. So, to be honest, we're all over the map when it comes to methods and strategies. And I actually feel like at this point I am a pretty bad example -- as soon as I wrote the post about early morning workout success the whole plan imploded and I haven't been to a morning workout class since. But I am more than happy to share our journey with you.

It was actually Carli who helped us get on the right track. A few months ago I was struggling because my baby was getting up every two hours. I was exhausted and feeling like a zombie and I had to fix the situation asap because I was so tired that it was becoming difficult to function. I want our days to be fun and productive, but that can't happen if I am constantly sleep deprived. Carli shared some great advice with me that worked wonders.

At the time, we were letting our baby girl stay up late. We didn't put her down until 11pm or later because that is when she seemed tired. And even though she was tired, she often protested being placed in her crib. Carl often spent an hour or more doing what he called "power soothing," otherwise known as the Five Ss (outlined in The Happiest Baby on the Block). It put her to sleep, but she didn't stay asleep. Two hours later she would be awake and ready for a meal. She never had any trouble going back to sleep after the middle-of-the-night feedings, but my sleep was greatly compromised. Not only that, she was sleeping in until 10am. She was getting her rest, but her late wake-up time made it difficult for us to get going with our day. 

Turns out we needed two things: an early bedtime, and a bedtime routine. Once we got these two key elements into place, everything improved! For some reason I had been resistant to the idea of a bedtime routine for such a young baby, but now I know better.

A typical night for us goes like this: Around 6:30pm we start the bedtime routine. Bath, diaper, pajamas, nurse, book, prayer. It takes 45 minutes to one hour, and she is always more than ready to sleep by the time we're done. After we place her in her crib, she fusses for a few minutes and then she's out like a light. We do use a sleep sheep, but I don't know if she needs that anymore. I just like it. She still gets up at 11pm and 3am (approximately) to nurse. Wake up time is 7am.

Not every night is typical, though. Last night was an off night, for example, and it was totally my fault. I didn't give her a bath because I was sick (I received a tdap immunization on Wednesday, and I've been feeling flu-ish every since) and Carl was not home. I thought it would be no big deal, but it threw her off and in addition to her normal feedings she was up from 8-9pm and again from 3:30-5am. Lesson learned. Don't mess with the routine!

On another recent night, she started crying a few minutes after I put her down and we assumed she was just grumpy. We decided to try the whole self-soothing thing, but it didn't work. When we eventually went in to check on her, we discovered she had a dirty diaper (she hasn't had a dirty diaper in the middle of the night since she was two months old, so we didn't really expect this). Hence the crying. Another lesson learned. Always check on her immediately.

So, I guess this is all to say that in terms of methods and strategies I don't really favor one over the other. The three I am most familiar with all incorporate things I like and things I don't like. I don't think it would be accurate to say we've done any sort of sleep training and I don't know that we will. However, for the most part she is fairly consistent in her sleep routine so sleep training doesn't feel urgent. It is my view that she will sleep longer and/or through the night when she is ready. Right now, she needs those two nighttime feedings. I will be very, very happy when she decides to drop them, though!

Anyway, I hope my rambling was at least somewhat helpful. I think I'm realizing that my parenting style is more along the lines of winging it. I just try to be flexible and adapt as I go. I know lots of people who have done sleep training with great success and swear by it, and I think that method is great if it works for you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is coffee paleo? Maybe not ...

I recently heard some news about coffee. Something I kind of wish I didn't know. Ignorance is bliss.

Apparently, 10 percent of coffee is a protein that cross reacts with gluten antibodies. In other words, if you are sensitive to gluten, a cup of coffee will supposedly trigger the same reaction your body has to things like cupcakes, soy sauce and bread. We're not talking about caffeine here -- it is the coffee itself that is the problem.


This information came to me via my friend Lorrie, who read about it on the The Healthy Home Economist, who learned about it at PaleoFX. I went in search of more information, but aside from a post on Dr. Clark's Brain Based Blog and a few anecdotes ... nothing. No studies on PubMed. No articles in geeky science journals. Even the blogosphere is relatively silent on the matter. So, definitely not a lot of official evidence. But enough to pique my interest, and I started thinking long and hard about my coffee consumption. Do I drink too much coffee? Why do I drink it? How does it make me feel? And most importantly ... how would I feel if I didn't drink coffee? I decided to find out, and about three weeks ago I eliminated coffee for 10 days. This was huge for me, because at the time my coffee consumption was spiraling out of control. I was drinking three shots of espresso in the morning and following that up with iced coffee in the afternoon. Way. Too. Much.

I unplugged my beloved Nespresso Pixie, and switched to green tea. The first couple of days were tough -- not because of headaches (I didn't get them, fortunately), but because I enjoy the ritual of making coffee in the morning. After the initial shock wore off, though, I found a new rhythm and didn't even think about my espresso machine.

The no-coffee experiment is over now, and I wish I could say that cutting it out didn't change a thing. Actually, I wish I could say that I felt worse without out it. Because I love it. But the honest truth is those 10 days without coffee were .... good days. My biggest complaint when it comes to how certain things affect me is joint inflammation, and recently it seemed like inflammation was increasing rather than decreasing -- despite the fact that I was completely staying away from wheat and sugar. When I eliminated coffee, it didn't just improve a lot. It went away completely. 100% gone. I started drinking coffee again a week or so ago, and I am noticing a very strong correlation between how much coffee I drink and how my joints feel. For example, two days ago I did the whole espresso-in-the-AM + iced coffee in the afternoon thing and I regretted it. Yesterday, I had just one little shot of espresso and I felt much, much better.

Of course, this is just my own little non-scientific experiment and doesn't prove anything other than that for some reason I personally seem to feel better when I'm not gulping down insane amounts of coffee every day. However, I'm intrigued by how closely my outcome matches the claim. And I consider my sensitivity to gluten to be only minimal -- especially compared to some of my friends. How, I wonder, would eliminating coffee impact/benefit those who must stay away from gluten at all times, at all costs?

Anyway, I don't really know what I'm going to do with this information. Giving up coffee altogether doesn't sound like fun to me, but I could certainly stand to reduce my overall consumption. I have a feeling that limiting coffee to a few times a week would do the trick. Currently, I'm on the once-a-day plan -- but I keep thinking about how I felt during those 10 no-coffee days. Maybe I'll repeat the experiment and see where it takes me. 

What do you think about the whole coffee/gluten theory? If you're a coffee drinker, what would it take to motivate you to quit? Would you give up coffee if you knew it would help you feel better? Does this mean coffee isn't Paleo?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baby loves yams!

Do you know the difference between a yam and a sweet potato? I didn't even know there was a difference until a year or so ago, and I still have a hard time remembering which is which. This is a long way of saying that I thought I was giving my baby girl a sweet potato last week, but it turns out she was actually eating a yam. No worries, though, because she loved it!

The Paleo Baby is digging her lunch!

This weekend, she'll be eating a genuine sweet potato. Along with carrots and beef.

I'm having a ball introducing her to solid food. It is so messy, yet so entertaining. As soon as I set her in her high chair she squeals with delight, and when she sees the spoon she sticks out her tongue and starts craning her neck. Adorable. 

I was somewhat nervous about the whole food introduction thing, mainly because breastfeeding is so convenient! I wondered how I was going to find time to make baby food when I can't even seem to find time to make decent meals for Carl and myself these days. But, in my very limited experience, I am finding that the food-making process is enjoyable. When I am chopping and blending, I feel very much at peace. Something about the act of preparing food for my baby and providing her with nourishment in this way feels very satisfying and, in a strange way, similar to the the warm feeling that comes with breastfeeding.

I'm not following a specific method of food introduction. I have books that provide sample menus and feeding plans, but they don't really appeal to me. I feed on demand and that works well for our family and right now I see no reason to start giving her breakfast, lunch and dinner on a schedule (with that said, she does seem to get hungry within fairly consistent time frames). I'm just winging it, and as long as she is content and thriving I'll continue to do so. My feeling is that feeding a baby doesn't need to be complex or rigid, and for the sake of my own sanity I'm going to keep it casual.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Introducing solid foods

Today I bought a sweet potato and a Keekaroo high chair. Tomorrow I will purée that sweet potato, and my little paleo baby will have her first official taste of solid food.

Our new Keekaroo high chair, scheduled to arrive on Friday!

I kinda wanted to put this off. In fact, I had considered breastfeeding exclusively for her first year. I love breastfeeding my baby, and figured that as long as it was meeting her nutritional needs that there was no rush to introduce anything else. Except now I'm thinking that it might not be meeting her nutritional needs. She's waking up hungry a lot. I mean, at this point we're lucky if we get a three-hour stretch overnight. This isn't a sleep-training issue -- it is very clear that she is hangry. Very, very hangry. Not-so-coincidentally, my milk supply also seems to be dropping off. Plus, she is now intrigued by/reaching out for our food. 

I can take a hint. At six months + one week old, my 15.5-pound baby is ready for some veggies and meat.

How exactly are we going to do this? Well, I'm not 100% sure. I totally get the philosophy behind baby-led weaning and I believe it is doable, logical and effective but I'm also not convinced it is the right choice for us. At the same time, I really don't want to feed her a mush-only diet for the next however-many months. It is all so overwhelming to me, and I think the best approach is to just kind of wing it and see where this feeding adventure takes us. So, for now, we'll start with homemade baby food (I think this is the safest and easiest route). We also have our Munchkin Fresh Food Feeders, which will be great for avocados and other fresh fruits. Once we get comfortable with the whole feeding process, we'll probably move on to regular (i.e. not puréed) foods. I'll continue to breastfeed, too, until she reaches her first birthday (approximately). In terms of her feeding schedule, I'll probably start by giving her a small amount of one single food early in the day (after nursing). We'll add more foods and feedings when we feel the time is right. And while I don't know that you really need recipes to make baby food, I'll definitely be consulting a book called Blender Baby Foods by Nicole Young for inspiration. Many of the recipes in Blender Baby Foods sound super delicious, actually. Like orange pumpkin purée and squashed apples. Mmmm. The book does encourage the consumption of grains and legumes, but it is easy enough to skip those recipes in favor of the paleo-friendly selections.

As far as fortified rice cereal, which seems to be one of the more common first foods for babies, it will not be a part of our baby's diet. Our pediatrician recommended it because babies apparently need the extra iron, but I'm not a fan of the idea. I think we can meet all of her nutritional with natural, unprocessed foods. 

When did you introduce food to your baby? Did you make your own baby food? What do you think of baby-led weaning?