I read all the parenting books and ingested all the Things You Shouldn’t Do Lest Your Life Be A Living Hell, and ultimately subscribed instead to the Do What You Have To Do Today to Survive and Deal With It Later When It Doesn’t Work school of thought. Sometimes when things change, I forget this and start to try to figure out what I’m doing wrong, but then I remember: my baby is growing – this is his sole purpose in life – and so change happens.
So, I thought I’d share the things we have done successfully that we shouldn’t be doing:
Bottle before bedtime… or naptime… or anytime he’s losing his little baby mind. Lots of books say you should separate feeding from sleeping and I agree that this is useful when your kiddo is a wee thing because, as new parents, we couldn’t tell the difference between his FEED ME cry and his OVERTIRED cry. At a few months old, getting him to sleep turning into a mini-wrestling match complete with headlocks (me) and karate moves (him). Eff it, I said, and gave him a bottle. Lo and behold, our little world became a much nicer place. Many times he’d drink half an ounce and pass out. Others he’d spit the formula out and I’d know he needed a pacifier to drift off. Four months in, he gets a bottle before bedtime and if he’s particularly fussy but doesn’t need one before each nap.
Forking over the bucks for a motorized swing and then using it religiously. He slept from approximately 6pm until approximately 7 am for like six weeks because of that thing, and of course I was terrified we’d have to wean him from it but used it anyway. God bless that thing. Seriously. And he weaned himself. He naps in a crib at day care and here at home so he was used to it, but every night we still swaddled him and put him in the swing. First he started fussing and breaking out of the swaddle so we experimented with leaving that off, but the movement of the swing made his little arms fly out. No bueno. We stopped turning it up so high. Then, one night, he wouldn’t settle down so I put him in his crib and voila! He slept! Man, I’m so thankful that our little dude is so danged good at being a baby.
Bringing him to bed with me. First, it’s relevant to mention that I’m sleeping in the guest room. Ever since we bought the queen-sized Tempurpedic, we haven’t slept worth a damn, so I finally cried uncle and went to the guest room to sleep. So. Awesome. We sometimes snuggle in one bed or the other together, but now I can read with the light on or watch bad TV as long as I want without getting lectured, plus, since I do the overnight shift, I don’t have to tiptoe around or debate what I’m doing at 4 in the morning. Last week I went to check on my fussing kid for the fourth time in two hours and his hands were freezing (again) and he wanted his pacifier (again) and I thought, eff it, we’re going to my bed. He sleeps perpendicular to my body so he doesn’t roll into me, with his own blankiet, all stretched out like he would in his bed, except he’s in mine. In fact, I’m not even sure he cares that he’s there, but I can reach over and pat him or give him his pacifier without stumbling across the hall. For now, it means I get three hours of sleep at a stretch which leaves me minimally functional.
Speaking of pacifiers… I don’t remember when we started giving him one but I subscribe to the theory that sucking is soothing and therefore not something I want to withhold. We realized that he’d suck on a bottle but then choke or spit up because he wanted the sucking but wasn’t hungry, so we started using one for sleep time (see! a positive association!) and it’s worked beautifully. Yes, now he sometimes can’t get back to sleep without it, which sucks (wocka wocka) but I also think that’s because he’s four months old and therefore struggling to get back to sleep in general. He’s almost gotten the hang of pulling it out of his mouth and putting it back in on his own, yay! He’ll also generally spit it out once he’s lulled to sleep, which I think means he’ll eventually wean himself from it. Along those lines, he only gets it when it’s sleep time. Any other time, he has to find other ways to soothe himself or stay occupied.
Bathing more often than a few times a week. At about a month old, he puked on me so thoroughly that I stepped into the shower while holding him and fully clothed, thereby discovering that showering a baby while you’re in there too is way easier than anything else. We continue the practice to this day, so unlike most new parents who can’t fit a bath in, we sometimes argue over who has the drier skin and therefore gets to skip one. My kid gets two a day, in fact: shower in the morning to rinse off the drool and puke and pee remnants from over night and a long bath at night where he swims and floats and rolls like a little otter. We try to use soap only once a day, and sometimes we confuse ourselves and do it no times a day, others he gets soaped twice. His skin is fine and we are never tempted to walk away from the bathing baby to grab a towel or whatever. It works great.
For those who might ask, it’s not hard. Put a bouncer on the floor in the bathroom with a towel spread on it and strip baby down to a diaper. Strip down yourself and get in shower, then wash yourself quickly. Reach out, unsnap the diaper and pull naked baby into your arms, then move into and out of the shower spray like you’re in a car wash. Only soap one area at a time because soapy baby = slippery baby. We finish up by rolling him into the crook of one arm and washing his boy parts and then reach out and lay him back in the towel-covered bouncer, wrap him up, and finish showering. Because he gets impatient, I sing the ABC song while I dry off – it’s our routine now – then take the towel-wrapped baby into his room to get him changed. It’s also helpful to have a loud and interesting shower curtain. Similar process when it comes to baths. I sit sideways and cross-legged in the tub so he can hang out in the little space that creates. For months I’ve let him practice floating so that now he’s able to float quite happily with me supporting only his head. Since he’s able to lift his head, he also “swims” around on his belly while frog-kicking. Hilarious. I highly recommend this practice as it’s fun, forces me to not be distracted or using electronics, and gets him a lot of exercise and practice using his body in ways he can’t normally manage out of water.
I try to remember that he is the expert at being a baby and we can learn from him if we pay enough attention. When we first switched him to formula, we were constantly second-guessing whether he should be eating that much or that often or yet again. When we gave up trying to know and just followed his queues, we discovered he was naturally eating just the right amount (duh). The more I remember that, the easier it is for me to go along with whatever phase he’s in, be it the Party At 4 AM phase or the Shriek and then Cackle Loudly When in Public phase. Now, this doesn’t mean he drives our schedule or that we feed him every hour (most days), but it does mean we are good at reading his cues (me more than my husband, I’ll admit) so he’s improving at communicating, too.