By all means skip this one if you aren’t of the parental persuasion – I used to read three words of “baby advice” columns before turning my thoughts to basketball – but a few interesting things have come up lately.
First off, an article in today’s New York Times talks about the growing number of parents who have sheepishly admitted to letting their babies sleep on their stomachs, despite the fact that SIDS rates have plummeted since the “Back to Sleep” campaign started. Anyone with a baby can tell you that a baby sleeping on its back is a baby about to wake up and scream (unless you’re one of the lucky ones) so none of this is surprising.
As I mentioned before, we didn’t exactly follow the “Back to Sleep” rules either. Our compromise was to put Lucy on her side with those foam sleep positioners and cram them in so she couldn’t flop onto her belly. One reason this side-sleeping was so comforting, I think, is because the positoners simulate being on your belly and all the tummy-related comfort that gives.
This worked really well for us until she got very strong, very early, and just did whatever the hell she wanted to do. She started rolling over – from either tummy or back – by about three months, so now we just keep the sleep positioners in her crib because she likes to kick them.
One thing about that NYTimes article (besides its awesome mention of Park Slope Parents and our newborn-care teacher Erica Lyon): they mentioned the “epidemic” of plagiocephaly, where babies’ heads end up misshapen because of constantly sleeping on their backs. We have a close friend whose baby has to wear a helmet for this very reason, and it is fascinating to hear that this once-rare condition is now a daily problem for pediatricians.
From what I’ve read, certain Native American tribes’ babies have totally flat heads in the back because of the wooden papoose, but these kids – like their honky counterparts – usually grow up to have perfectly head-shaped heads. Still, as a parent, having an oblong-headed baby has to be nerve-wracking.
Oh yes, and the lovely and talented Joanna wanted to know how we got Lucy to adhere to her now-very-nice sleeping schedule. The answer is: totally by accident. We told one of our babysitters never to disturb Lucy after she went to bed, but one night we got back from a movie, and the sitter was feeding Lucy the bottle at 11pm. We were chagrined, but then Lucy slept until almost 8am the next morning. Cue light bulb flashing over our heads.
Here’s what we’ve done, culling the advice from several books and our own experience:
1. Never let the baby fall asleep in your arms. Rock them a little, and wait until that liminal moment when their bodies seem to go a little limp from fatigue, and then stick them into the crib while barely awake. If they learn to fall asleep in there, they will also learn to put themselves back to sleep when they inevitably wake up at 2am for no reason.
2. There is a bit of tough love involved here. If your baby doesn’t go straight down during your transfer-to-the-crib moment but you KNOW they’re tired, they are going to have to cry a little. Lucy never cried for more than 15 minutes, even though it felt like three hours. THEY MUST LEARN THAT SCREAMING IS NOT WORTH IT. If you cave in, they will learn that you will cave in. There are ways to make this less dramatic (read “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”) but we never needed more than 20 minutes of patience.
3. The so-called “dream feed” must be done by the husband. He is just boring enough to pull it off. No more than 4-5 ounces from the bottle, and then make sure there’s a little burp before going back down. The baby should learn the drill after about two nights. DO NOT breastfeed, as this is a whole other emotional ball of wax for the baby. Put the dream feed near the half-way point of your baby’s night.
4. I realize some of this sounds a lot like “crying it out,” but if you really read Ferber (from which we took a few pointers), he does not advocate cruelty, just boundaries. Plus, when it works out, your baby will be so much happier in the long run, and you will feel a sense of freedom that will allow for your sanity to creep back in.
5. In terms of sleeping arrangements, here’s what we did, with a fair amount of success:
– from the first day to about eight weeks, Lucy slept in the bed with us, with very hard “sleep dividers” so there was no chance of us rolling over near her.
– from 8 weeks to three months, she slept in a crib about six feet from our bed.
– from 3 months to now, she sleeps in her own crib in her own room, and by all accounts, loves it.
I always thought there might be something a little draconian about making a baby sleep in his own room, but really, if you want to have a life, a job, and a great relationship with your little tyke, I have to say that good fences make good neighbors. Don’t feel guilty about your fatigue. God helps those who help themselves to sleep.
Thoughts? Or did everyone stop reading right about when I said “By all means skip this one”?