September 26, 2009

trial and error

It seems to me that this baby-raising thing involves a lot more trial and error than one would think. There are so many things to figure out based on your particular baby's temperament, size, tendencies, and personality that you just can't really do until your baby is born and you've spent some time getting to know them. For someone like me, who loves to research and plan things out in advance, that's been a bit of a challenge for me to adapt to!

I've already documented a bit about our search for the perfect baby carrier here, although my writing and photos have only scratched the surface of the carriers that we've purchased and tried (all second-hand, at least 50% off!), much to my husband's chagrin. We've also been through a half-dozen cloth diaper covers in search of the perfect combination of a good fit around those chubby little thighs and leak protection that will survive at least part of the night. Then there was the obvious clothing obstacle, as we didn't realize until Lincoln arrived that those adorable little newborn size onesies were never going to fit him with his overachiever's body.

At this point in time, a little over six weeks after Lincoln was born, we've gotten many of those things hammered out. The one glaring exception to this, and the one that impacts me the most personally and directly, has to do with sleep. And that's not sleep quantity- as our little monkey is a great sleeper and consistently gets around 12 hours a night, going down some time between 7 and 9 pm, and sleeping until 7 or 9 in the morning. There's some variation depending on how much he naps during the day, but overall we've lost very little sleep so far, and I think that might be a miracle!

So the issue we're having with sleep is not how much we're getting, but where and how we're getting it, or more specifically, how I'm getting it. Since those first nights in the hospital, Lincoln has slept on my chest or by my side so we have easy access to nurse every one-and-a-half to two hours. That was fine when he was a little newborn (not that he ever really was), but now that he's over thirteen pounds and he's working on two feet long, it's getting to be considerably less comfortable for me to sleep with him on top of me all night long!

Thankfully, as he's gotten a little bit older, he sleeps for longer stretches at a time, and now when he first goes down for the night he usually stays asleep for four to five hours. He's also fairly easy to relocate during this stretch, so we're able to move him from downstairs (where he falls asleep with us watching tv) to our room when we're ready to go to bed. He starts out the night in the cosleeper, and I bring him to the bed the first time he wakes up, usually around 1 or 2 am. He eats and falls back asleep, and I do too. Lincoln's happy and snug as a bug, but unfortunately, I'm sleeping sitting up with the equivalent of an oversized sack of flour on top of me! And no, he won't let me put him back in the cosleeper. He wakes up the instant I put him down, and no amount of soothing or patting or reassuring him that I'm still there will convince him that he should fall asleep again.

And while having him so close does make nursing easy, part of my problem is that it almost makes it too easy. Lincoln has no problem eating from 3am until 6 or 6:30, while maintaining sleep, and seemingly without interruption. You can only imagine what those marathon feeding sessions do to the delivery devices. By morning, not only is my back stiff, but I feel like a human pacifier. I feel like there's just too much temptation, and if he would just go down in the cosleeper maybe he would forget for a minute about eating and I could also lie down and get some relief.

And so, a couple weeks ago, after a particularly uncomfortable night, I found this on Craigslist and went to pick it up. The owners were a sweet young couple, about our age, who related a story that sounded so familiar that I could have narrated it myself. Their daughter slept on mom- it was fine at first but after a while mom would give anything just to lie down, or sleep on her stomach for even an hour. They have the cosleeper, but daughter won't sleep in it. They heard that the cocoon works for a lot of babies, and they were willing to give it a try. They were willing to give anything a try! And now, a few short weeks later I found it on Craigslist. I'm an intelligent woman and I could sense the likely futility of this purchase, but I too was blinded by discomfort and was willing to try anything!

The first night I was thrilled to find that when we transferred him to the cocoon during his first stretch of sleep, everything went great and he slept until 1 am as usual. He woke, I fed him, and I returned him to the cocoon for another two hours. It worked! I was so excited and well rested that I could hardly contain myself. That is, until the next night- when we were right back where we started and he woke up as soon as I put him down. We've gone on in this manner ever since, until last night when I finally gave in. You see, we've had a solution at our disposal this whole time, but foolish pride has gotten in the way of us putting it to use.

The solution appears to be this devil of a swing- a gift from my sister that she insisted that we needed and that we have tried to return to the store twice with no success. I think we're opposed to the swing on principle more than anything. It's huge and cumbersome, made of plastic and obnoxious in its design, and then there's the fact that it takes FOUR D BATTERIES to operate it. I just can't stand the idea of the thing, so we left it in the box in the basement storage room until Lincoln was a few weeks old and we decided in a moment of weakness that since we couldn't return it, we might as well open it up and see if he likes it. Well, he doesn't. He LOVES it. It's the only place other than my lap that he'll nap during the day, and he calms down pretty much the instant we strap him in, mesmerized by the flashing lights and plush fish. More than one evening Gus and I have sat grumbling on the couch after we've spent half an hour walking, bouncing, snuggling, singing, swaddling, shushing, and otherwise attempting to calm Lincoln down only to put him down in the swing and have him go out like a light in two minutes.

So last night I finally requested that we swap the cocoon by my side of the bed with the blasted swing. I was worn down by the fact that on Thursday Lincoln spent the hours between 1 am and 5 am gnawing me raw, and I was determined that that be the last night of that. Ultimately, my comfort won out over pride, and I have to say- I slept like a dream last night! I brought him to bed with me from 1-3, and again from 5-6:30, and he stayed so long because I wanted him to, not because he wouldn't sleep elsewhere. The swing successfully lulled him to sleep during the in-between times, while I slept peacefully and horizontally! Woo hoo!