So, long before this baby arrived, I read Bringing Up Bebe. A charming book written by an American woman who is raising her babies in France. Being a bit of a Europhile (ha, a bit), I really glommed onto this book. It’s filled with tips promising to have your baby sleeping through the night at two months, and eating well behaved dinners out at two years. Friends told me not to get my hopes up, but I don’t believe in not getting my hopes up, so I did.
The strategy for getting the wee ones to sleep through the night was simple. The Pause. Just pause for 5-10 minutes before attending to your recently awoken baby. Simple right? Wrong. First of all, our baby didn’t really cry when she woke up, she just grunted. Did grunting count in the 5-10 minutes, or did we need to wait for a cry? Secondly, she woke up when she was hungry. She was only a month old with a stomach the size of a strawberry, and breast milk digests in two hours. AM I SUPPOSED TO LET THE KID STARVE? And finally, letting your baby cry for the length of the “pause” pretty much amounted to letting her “cry it out,” and everyone knows you are not supposed to let a newborn “cry it out.”
So what did we do? Well, for the first 2 months, every time she woke up, Joe and I sleepily looked at each other and decided how long “the pause” would be. It was usually about a minute. I think the longest we made it was four. It was all starting to sound like a bunch of crap. Month three pretty much consisted of me getting up to feed her, and Joe getting up for the subsequent, non-hungry grunts, and replacing the nuk. I was really starting think that this would just be how it would be. Forever.
At this point, I should add that we have a pretty specific strategy for getting this kid to sleep. She’s what the personality scales describe as “highly active,” and “highly sensitive.” She moves her arms and legs pretty much constantly, frequently scaring herself awake. So, we super swaddled, using Dr. Karp’s (Happiest Baby on the Block) DUDU swaddle. She looked like a burrito. Along with the swaddle we basically had to strap her legs to the crib with a blanked tucked under the mattress. See exhibit A. Yes, I realize exhibit A demonstrates some very un-SIDS-friendly positioning. She normally was on her back, and the blanket wasn’t so close to her face. So calm down. She also sucks like a leech, and the pacifier worked better than the morphine they gave her in the NICU. Now all of this sounds a little cruel, but this kid would go from screaming to a peaceful little angel once all these apparatuses were in place. She loved it.
So month three was trucking along, I’d heard about some highly recommended sleep classes at our local parenting center, Amma. I signed us up, hoping to get some tips and make the transition back to work, and to daycare, a little easier. A few days before the class, everything kinda went to hell. She was freaking out before bed, getting to the point of passing out from exhaustion, then awakening super mad about 15 minutes later. She was starting to get up 3-4 times a night, and it was taking a hour or two to get her back to sleep, while she frequently busted out of her swaddle. We were back in newborn land all of the sudden. Thankfully, the sleep class was coming up.
The class was great. It was filled with other parents of 3-6 monthers having similar problems. I was happy to discover that we were already doing a lot of things right. We always have a morning nap, and “protect the morning nap,” was one of the most important points. We used loud white noise, and had a pretty consistent nighttime routine. In other areas, we weren’t doing so hot. We didn’t keep her room totally dark, and we were often following “clocks, not cues.” We were also clearly letting her get overtired at night. We were so focused on getting enough food into her, we were pushing her way past her natural bedtime. To my horror, I also learned that most daycares won’t swaddle. OMG SHE WOULD NEVER TAKE ANOTHER NAP.
So, her body movements are still waking her up, as the would until she was perhaps 9 months old. I guess this is a neurological developmental milestone some babies do reach until that age. What were we supposed to do with the swaddle! I’d tried just that day to lay her down without the swaddle. I rocked her to sleep in my arms, lay her gently down, and held her arms until I knew she was completely asleep, then watched carefully in order to contain any limb movements. It was about a minute before arms and legs flew up, like a cat falling out of a tree, and she was wide awake and not happy.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you the solution, exhibit B:
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. I was skeptical at first, but a few parents in the sleep class swore by it. It might be the best forty dollars we’ve ever spent. Well, that and the cool $120 we dropped on the swing, finally getting her to sleep in those first few sleepless nights.
So last night we watched for her cues like hawks. She took her “naplet” (a short nap most babies take in the evening) and then made sure she was fed and in bed no longer than 60-90 minutes after waking up from the naplet. Now, this was 6:30 pm, so I was more than skeptical that she’d sleep through the night without eating again. We stuffed her in her space suit, put her in the crib, and sauntered back to the kitchen to make our dinner. She fussed a couple of times, resulting in us popping the nuk back in her mouth, and then she was asleep by 7.
Now, here’s where it gets crazy. SHE SLEPT UNTIL 6AM. I, of course, did not. I woke up at 2:30 am, sure something terrible had happened, snuck into her room, heard her grunt, felt immediate relief, and went back to bed. Well, pumped (Moms are sure to understand that one), and went back to bed.
This might not be the end-all-be-all to infant sleep issues in our house, but it’s nothing short of the heavens opening up to reveal a whole new life for Joe and I.
When did your infant sleep through the night? Any tips or strategies you swore by? Leave a comment, or answer the poll below. I’m just curious.