Category Archives: sleep

The suckiest part of being a scientist and a mom…

… to me right now is the unpredictability of sleep. In order to function at a decent level I need a certain amount of sleep. And being pregnant I need a little more too I think. Pre-baby I knew that if I had important stuff to write (like the pile of grants and fellowships that I’m writing now), I would go to bed early and make sure I’m rested so that I can be focused the next day. Now, I can go to bed however early I want, but if BlueEyes is having a crappy night, then so am I.

I haven’t written a lot about baby sleep recently, but it’s still not awesome. A great night is when BlueEyes wakes up for the first time around 2 pm and an awesome night is when he doesn’t wake up at all, but these awesome nights can be counted on the fingers of half a hand. Most of the time I’m okay with that. I know that after a crappy night, a better night will follow. But in these pre-deadline days when I’m slightly stressed about funding and what that means for my career (slightly is really a huge understatement) I find myself having a hard time to keep my cool about this. And it has been proven now that me panicking about lack of sleep in the middle of the night does not increase sleep for anyone in this family. So there’s that. Back to grant writing (1 down, 3 to go).

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Filed under grant writing, science, sleep, working mom

On breastfeeding while pregnant.


Before BlueEyes was born I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a try, but I didn’t have any particular goals in mind. I first wanted to see how things went and if I could even do it. Shortly after he was born he started nursing and it went surprisingly well. I was very lucky and never really had any problems. No clogged ducts, no mastitis, no nipples that were hurting. It was all smooth sailing. 
Before I had BlueEyes, I thought nursing a toddler, let alone a bigger kid, was a bit weird. I guess it doesn’t help that you rarely see people do it. But your own child becomes a toddler very gradually. So slow that you almost don’t realize that he’s not a little baby anymore. So there is no one day when all of a sudden he is a toddler and you ‘have to’ stop nursing. I’m still breastfeeding BlueEyes, because I really don’t see a good reason not to. What I didn’t realize before is that after about a year you can stop pumping at work, because your breasts slowly turn from milk storage units to milk making units (i.e. you make the most milk during a feeding instead of throughout the day). BlueEyes nurses shortly when we come home from daycare, he nurses (a lot) before he goes to bed, and then when he wakes up at night he nurses to fall back to sleep easily. And he nurses when he’s really upset and angry and when that is really the only way to get him to calm down.

And now I’m pregnant and again, before I had BlueEyes I didn’t even realize that that was a thing: breastfeeding while you’re pregnant. Well, it is. And now you know it too ;-).

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Filed under attachment parenting, breastfeeding, pregnancy, pumping milk, sleep

Practicing patience


I think it’s safe to say that I’m an impatient person. I’m that kind of annoying person that will email you if I haven’t heard back a week after I sent you a manuscript. I like to do things fast and efficient. I think this makes me a good (albeit annoying) scientist, but it makes a pretty crappy parent. 
BlueEyes has gotten to that age when if he doesn’t like something he will throw himself on the floor crying. So this weekend, I spent 10 minutes that felt like an hour sitting on the sidewalk waiting for him to calm down after I told him that we were not going to cross the very busy street during our walk. Before that, I told him I was going to put his shoes on, but he didn’t want to wear those shoes, he wanted to wear his Crocs. This would have been fine, had there not been a good inch of snow outside. So it was kind of a struggle, and I haven’t even mentioned yet that all of this was done on a minimal amount of sleep, because for some unknown reason BlueEyes has been waking up even more frequently than normal for the past week.
So I try to stay calm and patient and kind and understanding and loving, even though I thought I was none of those things. Apparently I am and apparently this is what having a child does to you. It shows you that you have what it takes to raise this little person. On a good day, that is.

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Filed under parenting, sleep, toddler

Spending your emotions wisely


Recently, it seemed like every conversation I had was about how hard it is to get grants and how little money there is for science. At SfN this year it was all I talked about. But the awesome conference that I’m at now is completely shifting that. It is great to be here in so many ways:
First, I get to sleep and relax. Last night I decided not to go out and drink, but to go back to my hotel room at 11 and sleep. I slept in a whole stretch to the next morning. That hadn’t happened in 2 years and it was great. Also, there is some time to relax and I just spend an hour and a half at the pool reading a book. Anyone who has a kid realizes that that too is something that only happens every 2 years or less. 
Also scientifically this meeting is great. There are many good speakers and sessions, but what this conference also makes me realize is that I am someone who works in a certain field and knows things. For example, I know who the people in my field are and what they do. I realize what the questions are that the field has at the moment and I’m starting to think of ways to answer those. But also, other people are starting to know who I am. Yesterday, the most awesome science-thing ever happened, where I was talking to someone I hadn’t met before and at some point this person realized that ze was familiar with my graduate work. But not only that, my graduate work had “inspired the work that ze was doing now” (hir words). OMG this still makes me so excited and happy!
This meeting is also really interesting because there are so many senior scientists who show genuine interest and share advice. Not only did I get assigned two mentors because I won a travel award but I have also been talking to numerous other senior scientists. Talking to them does sometimes make me wonder if I’ll be able to pull it off to be a rock-star scientist when I grow up. The morning I left for this meeting I kind of broke down under the pressure of writing a paper and a grant in the same month, and worrying about funding situations and about Dr. BrownEyes’ paper and grant and on top of that trying to clean the house and do laundry in the 2 hours I had before leaving for this conference after a pretty crappy night of sleep. I cried and said I couldn’t take it anymore. And then I heard all these stories about women whose kids got sick or who went through the trouble of adopting a child from a far-away country. Would I be able to take anymore load on top of this? I don’t even dare to think about what would happen when BlueEyes would get sick in times like these when it is so busy. 
And that brings me to the title of this post. Because at the women’s lunch at this meeting the speaker was talking about how you can only use your emotional capacity once in a day. There is only so much energy you can spend on emotions, that you’d better spend it wisely, she said. So her advice was to use your analytical scientific brain to determine whether something is word worrying about, and if not, stop worrying about it immediately. 
So I am going to walk in the sun and spend my emotional capacity on being happy about all this exciting science, instead of on worrying about funding rates of such and such percentage!! And did I mention how glad I am again to spend time with people I met on twitter?!

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Filed under meeting, networking, role models, science, sleep, work-life balance, working mom

‘Nighttime parenting’ by Sears


I already admitted recently that we bought our first baby sleep book. After a year of not sleeping much longer than 3-4 hours (or less) at a time, I felt that maybe we were missing something. Previously I resisted getting a baby sleep book, because I thought (and still think) that worrying about lack of sleep takes even more of your energy than just not sleeping well. I also believe that sleep is not something you can force onto your children, but that the only thing you can do is create an environment in which they feel safe to fall asleep. So we didn’t buy any of the books that say that you have to let your baby cry-it-out, but instead got ‘Nighttime parenting’ from Bill Sears, the father of attachment parenting. Does it make sense to get a book on something that you already do (namely breastfeeding and co-sleeping)? It kind of does, which is why I’m writing about it.
The book starts out explaining what attachment parenting is. Sears doesn’t say that you have to breastfeed, babywear and co-sleep, but he just says that attachment parenting helps you achieve two goals:

  • To know your child. 
  • To help your child feel right.

And I like the way he talks about ‘nighttime parenting’, suggesting that you shouldn’t put your baby in a separate room from 7PM to 7AM (as some people around us suggest) but that you should also be there for him at night. But what annoyed me a bit was how he made it sound so overly romantic: you lay down with your baby after a nice warm bath, hold him in your arms and nurse him to sleep. Yeah right. In our house, that works only some of the time. Most of the time however, BlueEyes will nurse, almost fall asleep and then turn around and sit up, crawl out of bed and start playing. So then usually Dr. BrownEyes will come in and walk around with BlueEyes until he either sleeps or wants to nurse again (which he will tell by crying). This is far from the romantic picture dat Sears is painting in his book, which is filled with 70s pictures of people cuddling with their sleeping baby in the family bed…
In another chapter Sears talks about the ‘high need baby’, with which he means babies that have a hard time sleeping and/or cry a lot. I’ve been wondering whether BlueEyes would qualify as a high need baby, and to be honest: I have no idea. I don’t really have a lot of firsthand experience with other babies (I had never even changed a diaper before BlueEyes was born!), so I can’t say how he compares to other children (well except for all the stories about children who sleep through the night at 6 weeks old…). But the solution for a high need baby is basically even more co-sleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing than for a regular baby.
So was this book useful? You might be surprised, but yes it was! Because now I know that we’re not just doing something, but that it’s sort of normal to still nurse a 1 year old to sleep and to walk around the room with him when he wakes up at night in order for him to fall asleep again. And that it’s just a matter of waiting until he will sleep better.

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, books, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sleep

In case you were wondering…


Dear readers of my blog,
I love it that you read and comment on my blog and that I can ask you questions about science or life in general. I realize that I don’t always keep you informed about how things ended up, so here’s an update:
A while back I asked whether I should go for Lab A or Bwhen I go back to the home country. I had already sort of made up my mind, but still felt that I should write down the pros and cons before making a ‘real’ decision. As expected, I choose Lab B. This morning, I called for an hour with Lab B PI and we talked about aims for the grant that I am submitting in January. I am so excited about these research plans! I am starting to pilot some things soon, so they can hopefully go in as preliminary data! Yay, science! 
Then you may wonder how things are with the experiment that has to work in order for me to be shared first author on this paper that I talked about. We’re still doing the experiments, but so far (two thirds of the way there) it looks promising! But keep crossing your fingers for me please!
And for those of you wondering why I haven’t been complaining about being tired on twitter lately: BlueEyes is finally sleeping a bit better. It was pretty bad when he had just started his new class in daycare a couple weeks ago, because he would wake up every 1-2 hours en instead of easily fall back asleep he would be awake for a couple of hours. Right now, he wakes up twice, only to nurse really short and fall back asleep immediately. Two years ago I would have laughed at myself saying that this is great, but it is. I feel relatively rested again!

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Filed under experiments, finding a job, sleep, update

Sleep problems in early childhood associated with drug use

Today, over at Scientopia I’m writing about how sleep problems in early childhood seem associated with drug use in later life and whether that applies to BlueEyes’ difficulty sleeping.

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Filed under attachment parenting, baby, science, sleep