I’ve heard it said that sleep is the Holy Grail of parenting. We were lucky in that Mouse slept through the night very early on. But naps and getting him to go to bed, let alone sleeping in his crib? Yeah, good luck with that.
There are as many ways to get a child to go to bed and stay asleep as there are individual children. But for some reason, sleep techniques are about as controversial as it gets, with many sleep adherents believing that their way is the Right Way, and others are at best, foolish, and at worst, downright harmful.
Now first let me make this clear. Gen X Moms is a No Judgment Zone. All of us moms have different parenting styles and techniques, all of which are equally valid. What we all have in common is that we love our kids. There’s nothing like a vibrant conversation, and it’s only by listening to other voices that we all can understand each other. So if you’re looking for the One Right Way to do anything, you’ve come to the wrong blog, but if you’re looking to read and share ideas and support one-another, welcome! This entry and its soon to be posted companion are what worked for us to get Mouse to sleep, and I hope you find some helpful tips and share your own.
Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I traveled to visit some friends in Northern California. One friend, whose daughter was 6 months old at the time, pressed a book into my hands and emphatically stated, “This book saved my life. I. Am. Not. Exaggerating.” The book was Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby On The Block, and once Mouse arrived I knew just what my friend was talking about. It saved our lives too. And I’m not exaggerating either.
You can read some excerpts here, but as a quick overview, Dr. Karp’s premise is that babies have 5 different ways of calming themselves in our wombs, and if we re-create those 5 ways, we can help our babies calm themselves after they’re born. I know, my first reaction was “re-create the womb? Puh-lease!” but the more I read, the more sense it made to me. His approach is summed up in the “5S’s.”
S #1: Swaddling. Babies are curled up very tightly in our wombs and to set the stage for the other calming approaches, you swaddle them so they don’t jerk their arms, feel like they’re falling, or wake themselves up. I cannot tell you how well swaddling worked for Mouse. It was a true “off-switch” for him, and he couldn’t sleep without it. We swaddled him until about (a pediatrician-approved) 8-9 months. When he outgrew commercial swaddlers, I invented my own. The key to swaddling we found was swaddling tight. Mouse’s arms needed to be right by his side and the more tightly he was bundled, the calmer he got.
S #2: Side or Stomach-laying. Babies don’t sleep on their backs in the womb, and even though that’s the safest position for SIDS, it’s difficult for many babies (like ours) to fall and stay asleep flat on their backs. Rocking or holding the baby in a side or stomach position is another off-switch. Mouse ended up sleeping in his bouncy chair, but when he’d get really fussy, it was all about holding him in a side-lying position in our arms.
S #3: Shhhhhh. It’s really noisy in the womb, what with all of that liquid sloshing around and noises from the outside coming in. In fact, Dr. Karp posits that this is why babies in the womb are so active at night–once it’s quiet, that’s when they wake up. Dr. Karp emphasizes that it’s okay to be really loud, since it’s really loud in the womb. Again, we got all up in Mouse’s grill and Shhhh’d at the top of our lungs (so to speak) and the louder we did it, the calmer he got.
S #4: Swinging. Pretty self-explanatory. Unfortunately for us, this didn’t work for Mouse no matter how hard we tried, but it works really well for a lot of babies.
S #5: Sucking, as in a finger or pacifier. Again, Mouse never went for this. He couldn’t keep the binky in his mouth but eventually didn’t seem to care much anyway. But it does work for lots of babies.
In short, read the book, and buy it for any new parents or parents-to-be. They will thank you profusely!
Filed under: Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom, Tips | Tagged: 5 S's, Dr. Karp, getting a baby to sleep, Happiest Baby on the Block, Mouse, sleeping, swaddling | 6 Comments »