The Swaddle Dilemma

by Isabella on June 13, 2012

Did I mention lately how sleep deprived I am?  I am REALLY REALLY sleep deprived.  To be truthful, I was SO tired yesterday, that when Eitan refused to go back to sleep after his bottle in the morning, I went into our bedroom and cried for 5 minutes, just feeling sorry for myself.  Poor Simon probably thought I lost it, because it takes a lot to get me to just sit and cry, but he kindly hugged me and gave me a kiss before he left, which made me feel somewhat normal.  Pheww…that was nice to share, and I hope I am not the only sleep deprived mommy sitting on the side of her bed crying.

One of the reasons that I am so tired is that Eitan used to fall asleep well.  All I needed to do is swaddle him and put him down awake (note to all the mommies, always put baby down sleepy, but awake).  Despite our 3 1/2 months of successful non through the night sleeping, lately, he’s been fighting the swaddle and trying to get out of it.  So it’s like a lose lose situation for both him and I.  He won’t fall asleep without the swaddle, but he likes to fight his way out of it.  So putting him to sleep at night is time consuming, and he wakes himself up trying to houdini his way out of the swaddle….and then won’t fall back asleep until I swaddle him again.

As an aside, in general, swaddling is recommended as a soothing way to put your child to sleep.  While I was pregnant, I watched Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, and I implemented the swaddling technique Dr. Karp recommends.  We didn’t really need to do the shooshing or the rocking, as Eitan was generally a calm newborn, but based on generations of mommies rocking and shooshing their babies, it seems Dr. Karp has hit the nail on the head with his technique.

Swaddling is supposed to mimic the warm and enclosed environment of the womb, and as newborns and babies have very spastic jerky movements that they can’t control and a startle reflex until about 5 months, swaddling them gives them a sense of security.  But what happens when your baby is 4 months old, likes to practice escaping blankets, but needs to be swaddled to fall alseep?  Well…what happens is that one morning, you find yourself sitting on the side of the bed crying :)

With that said,  I would much prefer me to sit on the side of the bed and cry, than my little munchkin cry alone in bed, because he can’t fall asleep.  I think you can gather from this that I am not a proponent of the cry it out method at all.  I wouldn’t want to be left alone to cry…and it’s nice when Simon gives me a hug to sooth me, so I am definitely not going to leave my child to cry alone…it’s not his fault he doesn’t know how to fall asleep, he’s a baby, it’s a learned skill.

So since I am trying to teach him gently how to fall asleep on his own without a swaddle….over the past week, I’ve been trying to let him fall asleep without the swaddle for his naps.  I make sure he is well fed, warm enough and that we’ve interacted enough before sleep, and I leave him alone in bed.  I usually let him lay there for 10-15 minutes and watch him on the monitor.

So far…no success…he lays there for a while..but after about 10 minutes, he starts flailing his little arms around….and lifting his legs up and hitting them on the bed…and about 3 minutes later the squeeky crying starts.  As it to say “hey mommy…come and wrap me”.  So that’s when I go to him, tell him I love him, and swaddle him, and to my surprise, he falls asleep right away, without fighting it.  I guess all that arm and leg flailing was some tiring exercising :)  I am pretty sure that he’s still going to try and coax his way out of it, but at least he’s resting and not spending an hour feeling frustrated.

Based on 20 minutes of wiggling, doing acrobatic manuevers, crying and crankiness, I’ve concluded that he is not ready to be unswaddled, and that I will have to put up with his houdini tricks for a while longer.  Hopefully as his startle reflexes start to mature, and as his muscle tone becomes more adultlike, both him and I will be able to sleep soundly.  But for now…I will continue being what I’ve always wanted to be…a soothing…singing…hugging…swaddling mommy…tired and all.  The only other thing I’ll need to do now….is get him a bigger swaddle blanket :)


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