Friday, May 16, 2008

One Child's Journey to Slumberville

Sleep is hurdle that most new parents struggle with at some point. So, unless you are one of those parents whose child slept through the night from the beginning you have asked yourself one of these questions. How do I get my baby to sleep? How do I get my baby to nap? How do I get my baby to sleep for more than a few hours straight? Or in our case how do we get our baby to fall asleep without looking like an ensemble member of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

It has been a long and challenging road with Eliza's sleep routines. It has been frustrating, upsetting and exhausting. I admit that at one point not too long ago I thought I would be swaddling her for years. Adding to my stress were books reminding me a baby should not need a swaddle after 4 months people who offering unsolicited advice that I was stunting her physical development. However, my pediatrician said it was OK to swaddle so we continued the practice. You must understand Eliza needed the swaddle to sleep. Mommy and daddy needed it too! I didn't enjoy putting my daughter in a straight jacket for bed, but it really was the only way she would settle down for a nap or for the night.

0-3 months
We brought Eliza home from the hospital and tried to put her down with no swaddle and no sleep positioner. Can you tell Pete and I were naive about new babies? I thought my tiny little infant would drift off to sleep in my arms. I could have not been more wrong. Although it would be a while before we started swaddling this was the start of our journey in finding ways to get our baby to sleep. We tried rocking, bouncing on the bed, and walking. Driving did help- but have you seen the price of gas lately? Nothing seemed to help little fussy pants get to sleep.
At the hospital the nurses showed us how to swaddle but didn't really stress its importance. Seriously, when they told me no blankets in the crib I understood that to mean NO BLANKETS! My mom and Pete’s mom never used a swaddle so they couldn’t help either. Apparently every baby in our family except Eliza had slept like well- a baby. When I Eliza was about a week old I relayed our problems to my good friend Tracy. Her advice was to wrap her like a burrito and wedge her in the sleep positioner.

I was at Target during this conversation so I picked up a Munchkin Cool Flow Back Sleeper. That night we used the sleep positioner and wrapped her with her arms out in her Kiddopotamus. I just wasn’t comfortable with letting her sleep wrapped in a blanket. She was small but mighty and I figured she would HULK her way out of any blanket without Velcro. Also, she just didn’t seem to like being swaddled with her arms in so we resisted and continued to struggle with her sleep.

It wasn't until Eliza was 9 weeks old that we truly learned the art of swaddling from Happiest Baby on the Block. At this point Eliza would only nap for about 20 minutes at a time and only in my arms. Heather, having read the book, came for a visit and wrapped Eliza like never before in a receiving blanket. Finally, our baby found sweet sleep. Life after this improved greatly for me as a mom. I had finally found a way to soothe princess fussy pants and grew more confident in my ability to help my daughter. Eliza would take long naps while swaddled in the swing and I finally had a break to regain my sanity. I also discovered that there were actually blankets made for swaddling that worked much better than the receiving blankets I’d received at my shower.

3-6 months
Swaddling seemed like our sleep solution and Eliza was napping (for the most part) and sleeping well. But, as the months went by I started to question our swaddling. I felt she was getting too old for the baby burrito. Karp said they shouldn't need it after about 4 months. So we tried leaving one arm out like he suggested in the book. NO DEAL! We tried again a few weeks later. We pleaded with Eliza Deal or No Deal. NO DEAL! And so we let months five and six pass.

Month 7
At about month seven we found it necessary to phase out the sleep positioner. We found Eliza velcroed face down in her sleep positioner on two separate occasions. We knew it was too dangerous for nighttime when we don't watch her like a hawk. So we went cold turkey! It was horrible in the beginning. She would roll over onto her belly and wake up over and over and over. But we stuck it out –knowing it was a period of transition- and eventually she was able to sleep sans positioner. I started to see the light.

I was still frustrated that she needed the swaddle to settle down for sleep. If we didn’t swaddle her, she would fuss and struggle in our arms and never fall asleep. Granted she is not the world’s most cuddly baby and fusses in our arms regardless. However, at 7 ½ months my mom started getting her to nap without her arms swaddled. Slowly she started taking all her naps without her arms swaddled.

Happy 8 Month Birthday
The last transition has been falling asleep at night with her arms out. We still use her Kiddopotamus but we Velcro it under her arms. She is especially wound up in the evenings; warm baths and lullabies do nothing for this spitfire. So, Pete usually ends up lying with her on our bed and trying to get her to settle down. This process could take up to an hour or more (if daddy falls asleep too). Another problem is we move back and forth to my parents every week and she needs to adjust to a new crib at each home. It seems like on the night she adjusts- no one really sleeps. I can’t wait until June when I am living in one house. Who knows what will come in Months 9-12! Let’s hope for long sleep filled nights.


Marcy said...

We discovered early on that swaddling helped him calm down so he could go to sleep, but didn't try swaddling him well enough to stay tight for nighttime sleep till he was a good 2 months. OH MY LORD he went from waking every 3 hours to actually sleeping 6+ at a time.

Well, that lasted all of about 2-3 weeks. Recently we figure out he doesn't seem to sleep any better while swaddled anymore, but he still sometimes needs to have his arms wrapped in order to calm down if he's already fussy-tired. I keep waiting for him to be able to reliably find his fingers for self-soothing, too, but he's still figuring that out (and pacis are a no-go, I think he's on a plastic strike).