It’s Big Girl Time

   My daughter Amelia is now 4 months old.  Its crazy how fast time goes by.  We’ve learned so much about being parents to a new baby.  Some of our knowledge came the easy way, some came the hard way. Here are a few things we have picked up along the way.  We’re not experts at all, but have taken the advice from many books written by numerous specialists about sleeping, feeding, breast feeding, everything!  There are so many books out there, its tough to know what works and what doesn’t.  The truth is, every baby is different. Ours came at us with everything she had to throw us off.  She would confuse us with new behaviors, develop knew quirks, and throw us a few change-ups now and then.  The one thing we dreaded was sleep training!  Commercial baby world is loaded with ridiculous products, each product telling you in their own way, how much they will change your life.  Everything will be so much easier if you use “this” or “that.”  What they fail to tell you, is that each expensive thing that you get, is another thing you need to ween your kid off of like a junkie on heroine.

    Let’s rewind.  When we first brought the baby home, she was swaddled and slept on a “Rock and Play.”  This is a little device that you can put next to your bed that the baby sleeps in.  It’s on a reclined angle, its cozy, and comfortable.  The baby loved it.  She slept in it soundly for hours at a time.  So here we have two vices that the baby now has.  This sleeping device and the swaddle.  At the time, we didn’t look at it this way.  We were just happy the baby was sleeping, and things were going our way.  As time went on, everything we were reading was telling us that you didn’t really want to use the swaddle for more than 3-4 months at the most.  I started to look at this as judgement day.  Each day that passed brought us one day closer to perhaps a disaster.  While this realization set in, it also occurred to us that the countdown was on to get her out of the rock and play.  She probably could have used it longer, but the way I looked at it was, “the longer she uses it, the harder it will be to get her into her crib.”  We decided to act fast.  We tried to put the kabash on the rock and play.  We were failing miserably.  She would fall asleep in our arms, then we would set her down in the crib, and in 10 minutes she would be wide awake!  We would try over and over, eventually caving in because we needed a break and this baby needed to sleep! We would bring the rock and play back out and she would sleep for hours.  This wasn’t helping.  A few weeks would go by, and it was eventually starting to get better.  She would sleep longer (occasionally with a 15 minute nap here and there).  Eventually we broke the rock and play crutch and she was in the crib.  Now for phase 2…the swaddle.
   We had tried a few test runs without it…..barely being able to get her into the crib without her waking up.  The arms would go crazy, like they had minds of their own.  It’s like her arms were separate beings that wanted to just hit her in the face at all costs.

It seemed hopeless.  We tried some techniques.  One of them being, swaddling her with one arm free.  Occasionally this would work for maybe 10 minutes.  Our pediatrician suggested that we loosely swaddle her, so that she could move her arms around in the swaddle.  This was perhaps the dumbest of ideas.  She wouldn’t relax at all doing this.  Her goal became to get her hands up out of the swaddle thus getting stuck in their final destination-under her chin.  Then she would just start screaming and would be awake.  I asked around, speaking to people we knew for advice.  One set of friends that we know recommended the “Magic Merlin Sleep Suit”.  They had luck using this thing.  Their kid hated being swaddled, so she never developed the addiction.  It was funny because our kid hated it as well, but couldn’t sleep without it.  According to Amazon, this Magic Merlin Suit suit is described as a transitional piece to help get the baby out of, specifically, the rock and play and swaddle.  This sounded like a sure thing!  And for only $40.00!  I’m being sarcastic.  This was like placing a $40.00 dollar bet on black or red at the roulette wheel, and I had that gut feeling that I was pretty much going to lose.  I tried to be optimistic.  My wife laughed at me and laughed at the suit.  She pretty much knew I had just blown $40.00.  I wasn’t convinced.  I put her in the suit…..

Amelia was confused every time I placed her in this thing.  She would try to move her little arms and legs as this thing muffled all movements.  After numerous attempts with no luck I was about to throw this thing out a window. Then all of a sudden….

What a miracle product! I couldn’t believe it.  All of our problems were solved.  Then 5 minutes later, she was awake, and angry.  The attempts to use this for future naps were even worse as she would never fall asleep, and she hated how uncomfortable she was in it.  This thing was a bust.
    Fast forward to a week before the 4 month deadline.  She was still swaddled.  No signs of hope and she was occasionally bursting out of it.  I had to make a decision.  My wife leaves me with the baby 2 days a week for about 2 hours while she tends to appointments.  The next time she was to step out, I was going to experiment.  I wouldn’t try this when she was home, because I knew she wouldn’t be able to stomach the baby crying for more then a few minutes and then veto my plan.  I had to convince her that I could do it.  So one day Nicole had left, and it was time for the baby to nap.  I brought her upstairs, put her in her sleep sack (not the Merlin Suit, just a sleep sack, which is like a sleeping bag vest), gave her a kiss, and then let her go to work.  I fired up the camera and watched her as she occasionally cried…but nothing major.  She wouldn’t do it for that long.  She would then suck her hand and thumb, try to roll over, yell a little, and then repeat.  30 minutes had passed, and all of a sudden it got quiet.  She had fallen asleep.  I was super excited.  I felt like a champion.  A 30 minute nap, like a big girl.  I didn’t want to push my luck.  I left it as a one time thing for that day and she slept swaddled at night so that she could get rest.  With only a few days to go, I was going to try it a few more times in hopes of preparing her.  The next few days, I was able to sneak in another round of this, and my mom was able to as well.  I started to tell Nicole that I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be that terrible.  I think I even had her somewhat convinced that it may work.  She, like any mother, was horrified at the fact that this could possible be a horrible “cry it out” sort of thing, when the the truth was, she normally screamed and cried way worse when I would hold her to try and get her to fall asleep.  This wasn’t nearly as bad!
    The day finally arrived.  A Friday night.  We were mentally prepared to have a terrible night.  A night were she was going to cry a lot, fall asleep off and on, and I was prepared to have to calm Nicole down as I was sure she wasn’t going to be able to stomach the crying.  We were going to be following the sleep training schedule from the book:

The book promises to have your baby sleeping independently in roughly 5 days.  The first day being the worse, and than gradual improvement – until eventually, shes sleeping like a champion.  The rules were pretty straight forward.  Basically you set up a bed time, a routine (tell a story, dim the lights, etc), then lay her down, kiss her goodnight, shut the light, close the door.  If the baby starts to go nuts, you wait 5 minutes, then you walk in and let her know you are there.  You are not allowed to touch her, you simply say “I’m right here.”  You cannot stay more then 30 seconds.  You then don’t return, regardless of how bad it is, for 10 minutes.  So with that mindset, we began the routine.  Amelia was pretty angry and tired before bed.  I tried to read her a story while she just struggled and screamed at me.  The story portion was out of the question.  It was bed time.  I laid her down and left the room.  The crying began but it wasn’t too bad….it was on and off bursts of crying, almost to the point where I could tell it was more “whining”.  We toughed it out, and after about a half hour, she fell asleep.  She ended sleeping about 30 minutes and then woke herself up.  This was going to be the tricky part.  We were to rough this out and she was to put herself back to sleep.  She was able to do this in about 30 minutes and this time slept for a little over an hour, then woke back up.  Then she did it again!  This time she slept most of the night, only waking for a legit feeding!  Not only was she sleeping like a big girl, but it was easier than we ever imagined! 
   I guess if I learned anything from this, its to be careful how many vices you introduce to

your new kid.  Also, don’t believe what you read when it comes to “Cry-it-out.” Everyone makes it sound way worse then it really is.  You kid may be only 4 months old, but give her a little credit, let her learn to sooth herself and grow a little.  In the long run, it will be a hell of a lot easier on both of you.

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