Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ali's Annals: 2.0 "To Sleep: Perchance to Dream: Ay, There's the Rub"

"To Sleep: Perchance to Dream: Ay, There's the Rub" Name that quote!

Forward: There is no sense to my Ali's Annals designations or order. I let the spirit move me for choosing the topic of the night, and the whole 1.0, 2.0, etc is purely a fantastical approach at sounding scholarly. Something about a decimaled (I made that word up) number that makes it more official.

If you haven't already noticed, I have a 2 recurring themes of my blog: nursing and sleep. Tonight's missive will be on the Sleep Essentials (part of the Nursery Essentials that is to come). Interestingly, one of my favorite blogs mentioned in 1.0 had a post today regarding baby essentials. Clearly they caught wind of my Annals and are copy-cats. Actually, they are a nice complement to what I am doing as they are going to do a series of posts on things that are promoted as "essential" for babies, but may, in fact, be just superfluous commodities the baby industry is stuffing down our throats. I have a laundry list of items to contribute (wipe warmer...I know, I am a cold hearted mother who wipes her son's bottom with room temperature wipes!) Here is my outline of recommendations for tonight:
  • Chest sleeping
  • Co-sleeper
  • Swing
  • Miracle Blanket
  • Crib/mattress and accouterments
  • Fan
  • Humidifier
  • Night light
  • A nuk/lovey
  • Routine

Miles did not transition to his own room, let alone a crib until after 4 months. Truth be told, he still makes nightly trips to our bed after the midnight hour. The NICU experience had both Eric and me shirtless and giving Miles "Kangaroo Care" every day, so we were primed to hold Miles to our skin as much as possible. We did opt for the mini co-sleeper as opposed to exclusively bed sharing when Miles first came home. He was so tiny, and I just didn't trust myself to have him on the bed with us. (Oh, how quickly things change).

It is really nice not having to get out of bed (save, putting milk in the fridge after pumping) in the middle of the night, and I loved being able to watch Miles all night. The "mattress" that it came with was pathetic, and looking back, I would have tried to get something else, but it served its purpose. Anyway, he was swaddled for 6 months, and didn't really touch the mattress or sheet...more on swaddling later.

For naps, we usually both hung out on an unmade bed. I tried to do that the other day, but Miles just wanted to play. If it isn't dark and in the middle of the night, he thinks that we are just going to hang out horizontal and have coffee talk or something. (Ugh...I really miss those naps!). We used the Schlotty tummy time mat for naps. Heck, we still do!

Then, there is the swing. We landed ourselves a rather large and unsightly (if you know our taste, you'll understand) swing that everyone promised us was the panacea to getting a baby to sleep. Riiight, I chuckled. I was skeptical, but let me tell you, that swing was used ALL of the time. I had even been known to pick it up and drag it, clanging against the walls in all of its awkwardness, and plop it on the bathroom floor so I could take a shower. It is a beast to move, but for any mom who is home by herself, it makes things like personal hygiene a possibility. The one we had also included white noise sounds. We stuck with the night chirping and water falls. Did it make a difference? I have no idea, but the sounds were nice. Note: I would avoid the music option on the swing. Additionally, the rotating mobile at the top creeped me out. But there was a mirror that he could look into, and that seemed to be a nice source of entertainment.
For us, we not only survived, but thrived on the co-sleeper, swing, our arms, and our bed for months.

There is one missing player in the sleep equation from months 0-6: THE MIRACLE BLANKET. Oh, sweet Jesus, this thing was like a vision of The Virgin Mary crying on a potato chip. There are many swaddle blankets, but we found this particular one to be superior to the Swaddle Me blankets and all others. We did have to transition to the Swaddle Me at one point because Miles grew out of the miracle blanket, and he was still rocking the Moro Reflex into month 6. The Swadle Me came in sizes. The Miracle Blanket totally appears to be a baby straight jacket, but you combine this with Dr Karps "shushing" and jiggling method, and babies go to a "happy place."

Now, Miles is in a nursery, and sleeps in a crib until he gets up for the 1st or 2nd time and Eric scoops him up and puts him in our bed. To be honest, it didn't really feel strange to wait months before getting a crib. I know that is the first purchase so many make, but we had no problem waiting. First, we were moving, so no sense in setting up a nursery. Second, I just couldn't imagine moving Miles so far away so quickly. There are differing opinions on this, too, but I just felt (and still feel) like I couldn't bond as much if he was always in his nursery by himself. And as a working mom, now, I rarely get to see him during the day!

I originally didn't think I would go for a convertible crib, but we ended up with one that transitions to a toddler and kid bed purely based on the quality and "look." Additionally, we opted for a crib made from pine harvested from sustainably managed forests in NZ, and finished with certified non-toxic finishes and paints. PLUS, we got ours at a huge discount!

There are so many nice cribs out there--you can spend 4 figures on some, and others you can get for great deals. My note of caution: In my opinion cribs, like car seats, should be purchased new. Modern, traditional, sleigh shaped, convertible...whatever, but my recommendation is to get something reputable and not the best deal on Craigslist. (I don't mean to suggest that if you have other children you throw out your own and get a new one...)

For the crib accouterments, we opted for the simplistic SIDS proof style: a brown organic fitted sheet over a brown organic fitted mattress pad. I wouldn't have chosen brown, but Babies R Us has a pathetic "green" section, and I wasn't going to pay through the nose for some of the online deals I found. No blankets, no bumpers, no ruffles on the bottom...nada. Another great bargain- we found an organic mattress at Costco! You don't need a membership to buy online. It serves as a toddler mattress, too. (Just flip it over.)

I don't know beans about mattresses, but I do know that all other organic ones I found were double the price. Perhaps it is not as "organic" as some of the others, but I felt like it was a start...

A big ticket item: A FAN! We have a ceiling fan, but also put in a tiny floor one for 2 reasons:
  1. White noise: Here is one of those kill 2 birds with one stone. You can spend a pretty penny on all sorts of white noise machines, but a fan works quite well. Granted, we don't get the cricket chirps like our swing had, but it has 3 speeds of white noise to lull Miles to sleep.
  2. SIDS: a recent report suggested that sleeping with a fan reduces the risk of SIDS.
Another good white noise maker as well as a sleeping essential is a cool mist humidifier.
We use one on and off depending on how dry the air is. I will note that we have to turn our heat up a degree or two because the room gets a tad colder. I have no advice on kinds and types. We are using an old one of Eric's that I just know in my heart is probably harboring mold. It's on our "to buy" list.

Finally, a night light. Currently, I stumble around the nursery when I go in to see Miles at night. Just this week we got a night light. We had been looking for one of those small plug in ones, but couldn't find a good one. So, we opted for a Cloud b turtle night light.
It displays stars all over the room (and you can identify constellations). Plus, it is kind of cute. At some point, I want to get The Moon Jar when Miles is a little older.

Another essential/recommendation is either/or a nuk or "lovey." Miles has never been a huge pacifier guy, and prefers napkins, cloth, mom's hair (which I found passed through him to his diaper the other day...EWW!) or his own fingers to suck on...but we did try to initiate nuk use to help him sleep. For us, it just didn't work. Currently, we operate with 2 "loveys," Moses the bunny and Cleo the cat. (They are from Under the Nile, so you can see our naming inspiration. We also have Egypt the monkey, but he is used as a daytime, non sleeping lovey.)
Moses stays in our bed, and Cleo stays in the crib. Currently I am trying to find a good balance between washing them, and letting them soak up mom and dad smells. It's like when dogs burrow in their masters' dirty clothes pile to snooze--and I read of a woman who walked around the house with her baby girl's lovey in her bra to tag it with her scent. I have not gone there, yet.

Finally, a sleep essential is a routine, and a routine that you follow every day if you can. This comes more in to play after the first few months. But I have found that Miles does much better if we do the same thing every night at the SAME time before bed: Eat, play, bath, change, read, nurse, crib. Eric is in charge of reading while I nurse (but it has to be a book with rhymes or the Iliad. No joke.), and we both share the responsibility of putting him in the crib.

This post can easily turn into a complete nursery essentials post, but I'll wait to go into the broader nursery recommendations for another night.

Sorry if this is scattered tonight. Miles has the sniffles and got his night cast/split today. He has been up 4 times since we put him down 2 hours ago...this fact probably doesn't solidify my credibility on giving advice about babies and sleep tonight, huh?

This is what keeps us going...


  1. Long post - lots of thoughts. First, it was fun to revisit tiny Miles and how cute he was albeit a very different cute from his green smooshy cuteness now!
    For a humidifier, I bleach mine out weekly putting a mild bleach solution in the well and soaking it for 20 minutes and soak the base with vinegar for the same 2o minutes. It takes time, I know, but I think it helps keep it mold free.
    With swings and other equipment, the "canned" music is annoying and I can't imagine it is of any value to babies, despite the toy manufacturers' claims. IF there is music (and there should be time for silence...) let it be real music!
    Loveys are such an individual thing. Babies choose their own things - thumbs, fingers, binkies (ask Nich), dolls, stuffed animals, etc. It's hard to dictate or predict which each child might choose.
    Don't worry about not prewarming the wipes. Generations were raised on unwarmed wipes (or back in the day, wiping cloths...). If it's really too cold feeling, you can hold it in your hand for a few seconds to warm it enough not to shock your baby. that definitely is an unnecessary acquisition.
    All the young people of your generation were raised successfully without so many of the items commerce is trying to convince you are vital!
    Give Miles some time to get used to the splint. I am sure it's uncomfortable initially. It may take awhile.

  2. "...For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause: there's the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life;"

  3. LG was a tough nut on the sleep thing as well. Thankfully she now sleeps through the night AND takes a 2 to 3 hour nap! It will get better, it might get worse first, but then it will get better :).

    Did a post on our experience with Signing for you:
    Hope it answers your questions and if you have any other feel free to ask.