How do I remember those first couple months as a new mom? “Fondly” may not be the first word that comes to mind. New baby snuggles: a-mazing. Lack of sleep: awe-inspiring. (As you can see from my post on Mommy Brain).
I do remember when we all made it to the 6-week mark. My dear friend congratulated me: It just gets better from here! She was so right. Especially when the smiley stage began.
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When you leave the hospital with little loveliness, the nurses arm you with goodies. (My favorite part of getting a baby sister when I was 11 was all the junk my mom brought home from the hospital. Like the squirt bottle that she gave me to wash my Barbie dolls with.)
Amongst my hospital goodies there was a “Purple Crying” video. My mother told me several times to watch it. And by several times, I mean my husband was, like, “Enough with the f-ing video!” In other words, he just wanted to watch Mad Men.
We never did watch the video. I gather it has something to do with the witching hour or some such. I was too busy trying to nurse my kid every 2-3 hours for 25-minute stretches per boob so he’d regain his birth weight before they forced (wait for it…) FORMULA on us. I got nothing against formula – and ladies, it is crucial in many cases. In fact, my dear husband survived on it. But I’m cheap and isn’t this nursing thing just supposed to work? All I can say is all praise the mighty NIPPLE SHIELD.
Eventually we figured out that my mom was trying to save my ass. As a narcissist, I’ve read my baby book a couple times. Yet I’d never found the story about how I was allergic to all things between the hours of 7 and 10 every night. Apparently, my folks spent the evenings driving me around in their old Ford Ranchero (complete with harvest gold “wood” paneling and mustard yellow “leather” seats). It was the 70s. Which also means my dad drove, while my mom held me on her lap. Dude, what’s a seat belt?
Ladies, later my dad bolted me and my brother’s toddler car seats into the back of the Ranchero, in the hatchback part. With actual bolts from the hardware store.
And now, back to the future.
When my little guy hated life starting at 7 each night, I finally got that my mom was trying to throw me a lifeline.
We tried lots of things to convince him that sleep is magical, that sleep is where it’s at.
But never the baby swing. Because children DIE in those things. (Note: baby #2 lived in the swing til he was 4 months old. At which point, I called my pregnant friend and demanded that she come get the blasted thing NOW. That I didn’t need its siren call tempting me as a sleep crutch anymore. Because baby had started doing this whole acrobatic move where he slumped over to one side and tried to slide out onto the floor. Okay, so maybe children really do die in those things. If this happened to you: Sorry, I’m a jerk, stop reading my blog.)
If you’re in this “purple crying” boat, we recommend the following things. And remember, every kid is different. Let the experimentation begin!
With baby #2, we had to swaddle him and then swaddle him swaddled. If that makes sense. (The force is strong with this one.) These are my go-to swaddling tools: aden + adais blanket – it’s extra stretchy for a tight fit. And the miracle blanket, otherwise known as the baby straight jacket.
3) The cuddle cure.
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the 5 S’s from this I-can’t-recommend-it-enough-it-totally-saved-my-life parenting book, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. (See also “swaddling” above.)
4) Avoid rock-n-roll music.
On iTunes or the guitar. This is guaranteed not to lure him to sleep. (Thank you, #RockStarDad, for figuring this out.)
5) The yoga ball.
For bouncing baby up and down to rock him to sleep. It’s the modern take on the rocking chair, just slightly more violent, minus the whole shaken baby syndrome. Also, this is a great way to get a workout and lose the baby weight. The yoga ball will also entertain your 4-year-old when you’re trying to nurse your newborn.
6) The bedtime routine.
Your kid is never too young for a bedtime routine, regardless of what those useless baby instruction manuals claim. The bedtime routine is your friend. In fact, it’s so monumental to baby success that (someday) I’ll revisit this in another post.
7) Never OVERTIRE the baby.
See number 4 above: the overtired baby is an overstimulated baby. And overstimulated babies are not impressed with rock music (or your attempts to get them to sleep).
Let me explain…
Our night usually went like this:
6pm – baby yawns
6:15pm – baby yawns
6:30pm – baby yawns
6:45pm – baby screams bloody murder, we frantically start putting baby to bed
7pm – mommy nurses baby
7:15pm – mommy puts baby to bed
7:30pm until ad infinitum – mommy and daddy take turns bouncing, slinging, jostling, coaxing, lullabying, nursing, rediapering baby to no avail
Once the data queen in me took over (have I mentioned I’m an ESTJ on the Myers-Briggs?), we noticed the 3-yawn pattern.
And we took charge. When YAWN #1 happened, we moved into HIGH ALERT and rushed to get baby into bed. It was like a countdown: 3-2-1….You get 3 yawns. 3 strikes and you’re out! All hell breaks loose.
You know what? If we got the little guy in bed, well, nursing by 6:30pm, originally the timing of YAWN #3, he would go right to sleep. It was amazing. We fully support the absurdly early bedtime.
I know what you’re thinking: he woke up at the crack of dawn, right? Well, you’re right! BUT he always got up around 5:45am. Regardless of when he went to bed. To this day, he’s still my early riser. Putting him to bed early (now at 3 1/2 that means 7:30pm), ensures he gets all the sleep he needs, and never gets overtired, grouchy or sleep deprived.
Baby was ready for bed at 6:30pm, no exceptions. And when he started daycare, he actually went to bed at 5:30 for a month or two. If we tried to push him later, things always went south. Fast.
When your kid’s overtired and overstimulated, he can’t calm down to sleep. His little brain is overloaded. With all the stuff he encounters in life: you talking to him, you playing electric guitar for him, you reading another book to him, blah, blah, blah. It’s like once he reaches the point where he needs sleep, his little brain shuts down. He needs sleep to process all the amazing things he experienced that day. He needs sleep to learn.
His little brain can only handle so much stuff at once. (THE WORLD IS NEW AND FABULOUS AND FILLED WITH SQUIRRELS, BOOBS, TRUCKS!) He can’t fit anything else inside. So he tries pushing things out by screaming or acting like a wild banshee (bless his heart.) He is quite literally trying to avoid any more stimulation.
So, cut your babe some slack. And, dear God, put him to bed before YAWN #3. Then pour yourself some wine and watch Mad Men.
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