How we sleep

15 Jan

Sleep is often the focus of, well, life, while baby is young. New parents don’t get much of it, and when baby’s sleep patterns start to settle, there’s talk of routines & good habits. So I thought I’d do a post on how we sleep and how it has changed over time.

Since I’ve tried to be a laid-back parent that really follows my baby’s cues, and because we have limited space in our apartment, we didn’t create a nursery in a separate room. I’m all for co-sleeping, which describes as baby sleeping near (usually the same room) as the parents, but can be in a variety of ways: sharing the family bed; securely attaching a crib to one side of the parent’s bed, with the side near mom open; sleeping in different beds in the same room; or child sleeping in his/her own bedroom but is welcome in the parents’ bed at any time. We have co-slept in one way or another since babe was born. Co-sleeping is often used synonymously with bed-sharing, which is sharing the family bed, but co-sleeping is a larger category. That is, if you bed share, you are co-sleeping but you can co-sleep without bed-sharing.

Research has shown that in early months, co-sleeping helps to support breastfeeding and lowers SIDS risk. It also helps moms get more sleep and helps baby feel more secure (and thus, less fussy). I’m a heavy sleeper and slow to wake up, so for both of us it has been a lifesaver–I don’t have to reach far/walk far to tend to babe and he doesn’t have to shriek to wake me up. This is what we’ve done & when:

Newborn – 6weeks:
Babe was swaddled almost all the time. 2-4 swaddle blankets to keep the blankets tied and to keep him warm. He also lived in his bouncer most of the time with the vibrator vibrating. I know that the warning says not to put bouncers on raised surfaces, but we did put it on our futon–it is low to the ground and big enough that he was never too close to the edge. Rarely, I put him in the bouncer on the bed. It’s queen-sized so again, he was far from the edge. In the early days, I would sleep wherever worked with the babe–sometimes in the bed, sometimes on the futon–with him so that I could get up at night to eat (I was often hungry/thirsty as my milk regulated itself) plus I sometimes pumped, too, when we were dealing with painful feedings. I needed the TV to entertain me, so the living room was our paradise.

6 weeks-3 months:

After about 6 weeks, babe didn’t need to be swaddled so often, so he’d nap however and wherever he wanted. Sometimes laying on a blanket in the middle of the futon. Sometimes in his pack’n’play (even sometimes during tummy time!). Sometimes in his bouncer. It just depended on what worked at the time. At night, he was still swaddled but sometimes in his bouncer and increasingly in his pack’n’play. It took him a while to get used to no vibration, but gradually he got it. The pack’n’play was next to the futon or bed, always an arm’s reach or a step away.

3-4 months:
As babe has gotten used to a routine, I’ve been trying different methods of sleep. At first, he was in the pack’n’play in the bedroom, swaddled, at night. He would go to bed at 8-ish, then wake up at 11-ish, then 3-ish, then 7am-ish, then 10-am ish. Once my parents brought our awesome vintage crib (post coming soon with pics), we transitioned him to the crib. He loves the solid surface and we like having the living room to ourselves in the evening. I join babe in the bedroom sometime between 11 and 3 and it is heavenly. Our bed and lambswool comforter are like clouds of warmth and happiness after sleeping on the futon for so long. At each feeding time I would hop up, get babe out of the crib, feed him sitting using my boppy pillow, and put him back to bed. He usually fell right back to sleep, with help from his sleep sheep, crib mirror, and mobile.

The few days we have changed things up. I have been feeling exhausted–I can’t sleep at night and I’m tired all day. The physical activity of getting up to feed babe and sitting up for feedings wakes me up and I just can’t get back to sleep. I get bored if I’m not reading on my iphone, but the light wakes me up. I also used to time all his feedings so that I could see his nighttime routine. Over the holidays I stopped timing each feeding. I know he’s growing and thriving and well, I stopped caring if he was sleeping 4 or 5 or 6 hours in a row. He’s still not going to fall under my definition of “sleeping thru the night” (aka 9-10 hours) so what does it matter if he’s follwing somone else’s definition or not? So three days ago I decided to tackle side-lying breastfeeding.

I have a pretty large chest, which is good and bad. I have a lot of milk and my boobies are easy to manipulate, but they were sometimes overwhelming for a newborn. I tried side-lying a few times and there was never the right coordination of angles so that babe could get close enough to feed but not completely block his nose. Now that he’s older and can find the nipple on his own, side-lying is finally working. There are great guides online, I think I followed this one here. The way it works for us is this: I keep him on my right side. I lay on my right and start feeding from the breast on the bottom. He lays on his left side turned to me. I clear away all pillows, actually using my boppy as my pillow as the cuve allows it to hug my neck. I put his legs/bottom of swaddle (he still starts the night swaddled but wiggles out by feeding #2/3) over the covers so that I can still be covered but he’s not at risk of having a blanket cover his face. I now wear a long-sleeved T-shirt so that my arms don’t get cold at night (as the post-partum sweats are gone). I also have to wear my wrist brace as I’ve noticed that my wrist pain has flared up with both his increased weight and the manipulation of night feeds.

Once he feeds of my right side, I scoot away from him and roll to my belly so that my right breast can fall to his mouth. I have tried moving him to my left side, but it is generally less disruptive to just do it this way. He does like to feed off both sides, so this works well for us. Someone who is smaller-chested might have to move baby or move to the other side of the bed, but I have enough boob to get it to him from that angle. I keep a pacifier around if babe still wants to suck after he’s done eating, but often he knows when he’s done and just falls right to sleep. It is so great to have him right next to me all night–I can hear his sweet sighs. Smell his soft scent. Check his light breaths. When he gets hungry again his grunts and small fusses will wake me up and I just have to move into position rather than get up, retrieve him, get the pillow, etc, often turning on the bedside night-light. With side-lying we can usually find each other in the dark.

But: a funny story from a couple nights ago–everything was going delightfully. It was the 2nd night of side-lying feeding and bed-sharing. I think he ate sometime around 3/4 and then I rolled over to sleep on my left side. The first night my back got sore from always sleeping to baby, so now that we’re getting more used to things I’m more comfortable moving away from him (this is our queen bed and it is just the two of us. Dad’s on the futon. Babe and dad can’t sleep in the same room: dad’s a light sleeper and hears every.single.little grunt/sigh/whatever). Anyways, I was facing away from babe when I was woken up to a cough and a spit-up fountain on my back. I rolled over to check on him and maybe feed him more when he started shrieking! I tried one side to feed. Then the other. Then I thought maybe it was his diaper. Nope–more shrieking. I tried sitting and feeding like before. . and in the re-positioning I held him in a sitting position with his legs pressed towards his belly when he farted. And calmed down. He was shrieking with gas pains! Poor thing! But pretty funny! I think I nursed him for a bit and then we both fell back to sleep happpily until morning.

So right now we start the night with babe in crib at 8pm ish. He’ll move to bed with me at the feeding when I go to sleep. We spend the rest of the night together. Right now I’m trying to help him learn how to sleep un-swaddled. He still moves his hands so much he wakes himself, but I can’t swaddle & re-swaddle all night. He’s a big boy so it’s impossible, so I hold his hands as he falls asleep so he feels secure and it seems to be working.

Also, as I spend more time on campus doing work, I miss my boy. It is nice to have this time at night to bond. It is wonderful to be able to bed-share and to do it safely. My main philosophy these days is “as long as it’s safe–anything goes!” I’m sure the way we sleep will continue to change but for now, I’m happy to be able to spend the night in bed, sleeping, feeding, and getting my rest 🙂

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