I feel like I’m doing something wrong. There are so many theories, practices and controversies surrounding parenting and, frankly, I just don’t think it should be this hard. I was raised on formula, put to sleep in my crib from day one (and on my stomach, no less), didn’t have a pacifier, didn’t have a car seat, wore cloth diapers, and when my parents needed a free hand, they put me on the floor or on the grass on a blanket.
We, on the other hand, have 4 contraptions intended for sleeping, one of which he hates and none of which is his crib, bought something called Gripe Water to help soothe his afternoon colic (which, is one of the more trying things I’ve ever been through but happens, like clockwork, at 4:30 PM), and spend a lot of time fretting over getting him to sleep. Now, we do do everything on demand, so he eats when he wakes and is hungry and we begin the process of putting him down when he shows signs of tiredness. However, that routine has taken on a life of its own and he’s only 6 weeks old! It involves making sure he has a clean diaper, swaddling (and often having to re-swaddle) him, popping in a pacifier, swaying and jiggling and singing to him until he is calm and almost asleep (and if we didn’t time all this right (too early or too late), that alone could take 20 mins), picking a contraption to put him in (he mostly prefers the bouncer, but takes one morning nap in the swing), making sure he is positioned just so (too low and he cries as the swaddle inches up on his neck), turn on the vibration and the nature sounds, and even jiggle the bouncer by hand until he dozes off. Then, in 20 minutes when the vibration automatically shuts-off, he will start to cry and grow increasingly agitated until it is turned back on and/or the pacifier is popped back into his mouth.
Now, I do believe a few things, one of which is that, in the beginning, babies often like to suck beyond when they are sated and, because of the constant motion of being in the womb, often like some kind of motion to calm them and help them go to sleep. I am not against either one and I think whatever works, works. But, I feel like we’re becoming slaves to all these rituals and that they are, largely, for our convenience.
A feeding can take anywhere from 20 mins to an hour, depending on whether I feed at the breast or give a bottle and what time of day, as he is quicker to eat during the day than he is in his grogginess overnight. He’ll then have another half hour to an hour or so of awake time where we usually hold and interact with him. I may put him on his activity mat (which he likes), may give him some tummy time, or carry him around the house with me. Once he starts fussing, I know it is time to swaddle him and begin to get him ready for sleep. But, like I said, if I misread his cues and especially if I am late in reading them, the process becomes stressful as he grows increasingly more agitated and the more agitated he is, the harder it is to settle him and the longer it is until he is calm enough to sleep.
Our first son did a lot of sleeping on us. Baby boy #2 isn’t as interested in sleeping with or on either one of us. Yes, he may doze off for several minutes, but invariably wakes and usually doesn’t fall back to sleep in our arms. It’s something that we looked forward to but he just isn’t interested in, at least for long term sleeping.
So, the sleeping thing is stressful. Then, on one of the boards I moderate, someone asked about swaddling and commented that their pediatrician was against it. That caught my attention (our first son would not be swaddled but this one doesn’t seem to be able to really sleep unless he is), so I Googled “swaddling controversy” and, sure enough, one has developed in recent years. I read through some articles and have to say that as many of the cons make sense as do the pros. But, just the thought that swaddling may be harmful got me thinking about everything we do so that this little one sleeps because our own sleep is vitally important to us.
I remember thinking as I was going through similar rituals with my older son that if we ever had a second child I would not go to such lengths. In my mind, I would feed the baby on demand and put him down (I think in my head it would always be in his crib) when he was sleepy and that would be that. I wouldn’t structure my life around his schedule as I did with son #1 and, instead, go about my life and have him conform to it. Only that is not at all how this has gone down.
I realize that many of our advancements in pediatric care are for the health, safety, and well being of our children and I am not disputing much of it (back sleeping has reduced the incidence of SIDS, rear facing car seats have reduced serious injury or death in collisions, etc.) but I feel consumed and stressed and it’s detracting, a bit, from my enjoyment of this time. On the other hand, he does seem to be particular and his crying (and I mean all out crying, not squawking), is even more stressful and something I try to avoid.
I yearn for a simpler time.