Things We Have Learned Put Our Baby to Sleep

Lynn and I are going to develop a top X list -- 7, 8, 9 items? -- of things that put Ben to sleep because we have drawn advice from several books, our pediatrician, a post-partum doula, television programs, and friends. The combination is a blockbuster, with Ben sleeping for the last seven nights through the entire night. He nurses typically once after 4 to 6 hours of solid sleep, and then again a couple of hours later, and then around 7 to 8 when he's ready to wake up. This is great. We have a unique and lovely boy.In no particular order--we'll make it more formal later: 1. Swaddling. You've heard it, you know it, but you have to do it. We wound up buying the Miracle Blanket to help, but a tight swaddle in any receiving blankets that's comfortable for Ben and keeps him from swinging his hands around, waking himself up, is key to good sleep. We're somewhere between a few weeks and a few months to not swaddling him at all. We'll transition out. We were told by another parent that if you wait too long, the kid can become dependent on the swaddle for sleeping. 2. White noise. We use a hairdryer sound and the sound of rain on continuous repeat while Ben is napping and at night. It's a little crutch, but it means that he sleeps well and we sleep well. We're not seeing any bad side effects, and we've gradually lowered the volume. We'll probably phase this out around the same time as the swaddle--but slowly! 3. Co-sleeper. It's a bed sidecar. It means we keep our bed as the adult bed--it's too small to safely have him sleep in--and he's nearby for nursing and other nighttime needs. He gets used to sleeping in his own space, but he's not far off. Arm's Reach seems to make the only co-sleeper. It's remarkably complicated to assemble. We bought ours used via Craig's List after being unable to find a local distributor. (The list of resellers is out of date: one local children's store I called was peeved that they were still on the list as they'd been asking for two years to be removed.) Buying via Craig's List meant the very nice couple that sold us the co-sleeper taught us to assemble and disassemble! A great help. 4. Positioner. We use a foam positioner that elevates Ben, who has some reflux and a weak esophageal seal, like all infants. This keeps him happier at night, spitting up less. 5. Small noises should be ignored at night. We were pretty ready to jump up and feed or comfort Ben when he made any sound at night. And that was fine in his early weeks when he wasn't a good sleeper and his melatonin hadn't kicked in to start helping him tell night from day. But more recently, we were still doing it. Our post-partum doula/sleep consultant said more or less, he'll tell you when he needs something; his peeps and snorts can be safely ignored because he'll rise out of heavy sleep into light and back into it many times a night. She was right. The minute we started waiting for real action--not minutes of screaming, but a real "wah wah"--we started getting real sleep. It's tough. But it's the way to go and doesn't damage the kid. When you leap up every time he or she peeps, you're disturbing his or her sleep, the sleep folks say. 6. Make nighttime feedings, changings, and comforting dark, quiet, and boring. We thought we needed to sing and dance at night to get him back to sleep. Nope. This was another big change around three weeks old, when the pediatrician gave us this advice. Instant improvement. If he needs to be rocked back to sleep at night, we do it rhythmically in a glider chair in the almost dark with a few nightlights. We don't coo at him. During the day, we coo and sing and do all kinds of malarky to comfort him. But at night, no sirree. 7. Put on A&D ointment and don't change unless you have to overnight. We typically do need to change Ben at some point during the night, but he often goes 6 to 8 hours after going down before he needs a change. The A&D prevents diaper rash. As he's gotten older, his nighttime diapers have switched from a mix to almost entirely wet and not very. I've often changed him when he could have waited until real morning, and this would have let us all sleep a little better. (It's a problem when you misgauge, though: you could have a real explosion, so we're still erring on the side of at least once per night.) There's more, but I'm hardly an expert. My sample size is one. And what a glorious one that is. But we're eager to share as we learn more about what makes him work. As we pass on tricks to friends who are a few weeks behind us with their younger beauties, we're hearing back what seems to work and what doesn't for their particular kids, too. Later... We came up with a number 8: 8. Naps every 90 to 120 minutes during the day. The post-partum doula who has given us sleeping advice (for him and us) said that babies should generally take a nap from every 1 1/2 to 2 hours during the day. The nap can last from 30 minutes to 2 to 3 hours, but should be in a normal room: maybe a crib with all the general noise and light of the daytime. It should be a nap, not nighttime sleep. When she first told us this, we said, yeah, sure, right, he'll go to sleep. Before this, he had almost always slept on one of us or a relative or friend, and at weird intervals. He had rarely slept on his back during the day. The day she visited, we put him down for a nap. Holy smokes, the kid can sleep during the day. This was another step in the turning point for sleep. We did this at about six weeks, which is the point at which a baby can start doing this, apparently. Almost every day, he has three to four naps of 30 minutes to 2 hours. He will sometimes fight the nap for 10 to 15 minutes with us rocking him, singing, bouncing on a ball, then pass out and do a good stretch. This kind of nap only counts if it's deep sleep in a still state. He's a funny kid, though: he will sometimes nap really weirdly and not with much interest and still have a great night's sleep.