When Lil Z was first born, I read, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp, M.D. It had a lot of, well… weird ideas about how babies should really be in the the womb three or four months longer than they are. His reasoning is that they are fussy, like to sleep a lot and be swung, and they like calm, quiet, dark places – like in the womb. And newborns do like that, so I see where he is coming from.
However, I don’t think babies should be in the womb four months longer, and God doesn’t make mistakes (and Karp wasn’t probably saying that, exactly). Most normal newborns are fussy, in my opinion because they are in a transition period – c’mon, they just spent their entire lives in a cozy, warm environment, and they haven’t learned to self-soothe yet. It comes down to them not being able to suck their thumbs… or rub their hair, or whatever babies do to calm themselves down when they are upset, which they learn to do around month four. So I think God means for the first four months to be pure, awesome, bonding time with baby, because the parents are the ones who get to be the comforter.
With that said, this book’s techniques on calming a baby are a Godsend for parents with babies who are colicky and/or sick. We used this method and it worked every single time – unfortunately, it became the only way we could get Lil Z to sleep.
A fussy baby will immediately be calmed and pacified if you do the following things (at one time):
- Swaddle – swaddle baby, including his arms (as long as he is younger than 3 or 4 months)
- Shush – create rhythmic white noise. We ended up getting a noise machine and set it on the waterfall setting – loud.
- Swing – Gently jiggle baby on his side so you get a “bobble head” effect. We also had a lot of luck by placing Lil Z in his car seat and bouncy seat swaddled and jiggling him fast.
- Suck – Put a pacifier in baby’s mouth. When babies suck, natural calming chemicals are released in their brains.
- Side – placing the baby on his I guess is easier on their tummies and digestion.
Like I said, this method is a Godsend for parents of a sick or colicky baby. Now, if you are one of the lucky ones who gets a baby who sleeps well and can put himself to sleep, do not use this method. Let me say this again. If you have a happy baby who doesn’t have colic or reflux, or isn’t sick, DON’T’ USE THIS METHOD. You will be creating a baby who is dependent upon you to be a sleep prop (more on sleep props later). You will regret it later when your baby can only fall asleep with your help, and needs you to put them back to sleep when they wake up randomly at night.
If you are a sleep-deprived mother who has an unhappy and constantly-crying baby, skip this part. You will want to stab something with a rusty fork.
Magical Babies – Happy newborns know how to sleep:
So, apparently, there are these magical babies I had only heard about, and I thought they were the stuff of myths and legends. These babies are born knowing how to put themselves to sleep. They don’t really cry that much, except for maybe a little bit in the evenings, or when they are hungry. I have some friends (Erin and Stephen) who seem to be blessed with these magical babies. They had their magical baby, “Little J” a few short weeks after I had Lil Z. One day, we were sitting in Erin’s living room, talking and showing off our newborns. Erin said she was going to put “Little J” down for a nap. And to my shock (and jealousy), she just set him down.
No bouncing. No singing. No 25-minute routine. Just. Set. Him. Down. Just like that. And what did “Little J” do? He fussed and cried for maybe two minutes and promptly — fell asleep.
And now I’ve come to find out, after the…horribleness that I went through with Lil Z: that is what sleep should look like for a healthy, non-reflux, non-sick newborn. Yeah. That’s right, listen parents of happy newborns or parents who are about to have a newborn: a newborn baby knows how to put himself to sleep. You don’t have to help him. Don’t rock him to sleep. Don’t walk around til he falls asleep. Don’t place him on your chest and rub his back until he is asleep (OK, you can do this once or twice when they are really new – it’s totally freakin’ awesome). Anyway, if you put your baby to sleep, you will un-teach your baby how to fall asleep on his own. And it only takes a couple of days to do this. So my recommendation, as a mother of two babies who “un-learned” how to fall asleep – let them fall asleep on their own as a newborn.
What sleep should look like for a healthy baby: Swaddle them if they are four months or younger, run through a loving routine (read a book, turn out the lights, sing and pray, tell them you love them) and lay them in their cribs tired, but awake. Shut the door, and walk away. Baby will fuss and cry for a little bit, but will soon fall asleep. In fact, all babies cry before they fall asleep. If you listen and get to know their cries, you will begin to recognize their “I’m falling asleep cry.” Then your little bundle will be out. Like a light… that is, if your baby is not in pain.
If your baby is in pain, there really is no solution for him until he is out of pain (and by pain I don’t mean a little gas. Any mother of a protein intolerant or extreme reflux baby knows what I mean). Get their reflux under control. Work with your pediatrician to get them on the right meds. If you are breastfeeding, completely avoid the foods that bother them, or find a formula that doesn’t irritate them. Once your baby is healthy and not in pain, you can finally TEACH your baby how to sleep (just make sure they are four months or older so they can self-soothe).
My baby is not in pain anymore – Why is he not sleeping?! So I’d finally gotten Lil Z’s reflux under control through my diet and his medicine. For the most part, he was very happy, but despite the fact that he was a million times better, he still wasn’t sleeping through the night. In fact, he was still waking every 45 minutes.
Well, shortly after I read The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, I was told by a friend to read the Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby, by Tracie Hogg. It sounded hokey, but I was desperate. Well, this woman knows her stuff. She is baby-understanding rock-star. Every new mother needs this book. Get it. It’s amazing. She discusses everything from getting babies on a routine, understanding their various cries, introducing solids, and so on. It is comprehensive, and well worth the money.
The only thing in her book that didn’t work for me was her methods on helping your child fall asleep (it probably works if you have a happy, healthy, non-PI, reflux baby, though). Hogg feels it is wrong to let a baby “cry it out” when you are trying help them to learn to sleep. Her method involves a lot of back patting and shushing. I really wanted this method to work, because I didn’t want to have to let my baby cry. Well, I tried it her way… for four straight weeks (actually eight, but the first four he was still in pain because I hadn’t figured out his protein intolerance issues yet). Her sleep method didn’t work. I had become exactly what Hogg warns against – being a sleep prop.
So, my husband and I, tired and exhausted, were at our wits end. Our baby was six months old, and I hadn’t slept more than three or four hours since he had been born. It was time to get out the big guns. More on that… tomorrow.