Friday, January 21, 2011

A Swaddle Story

Here is Hendrix at 5 days old.  In his first swaddle.  The nurse wrapped him up like this right after they took him out of the phototherapy booth and he calmly went fast asleep.  

At 8 days old, here we were introducing him to his crib for the first time.  This swaddle blanket was rather large on him then and I think that it was practically double wrapped around his whole body.  Hendrix was an amazing sleeper from the beginning.  We would just lay him down and swaddle him up and he would go to sleep.  We were waking him up every three hours to feed him that whole first two months since he had such an early start to the world. 

I continued the swaddling when I took him to work with me at 3 weeks old.  He transitioned well to the interruption in his schedule, and has since become a very easygoing little fella. 

In November, after his 2 month check-up we received the okay to let him sleep until he woke up and was hungry.  At this point he started going to bed around 10pm or so and would wake up once in the night to eat, and then go back to sleep until 6am or so.  This was an amazing change of pace for this Momma since I had been religiously feeding him every three hours up until that point.  I didn't know what it was like to sleep for more than little catnaps!  We were still swaddling him, and we actually started using more of a fuzzy blanket in his crib because he was really soothed by the soft feel around his face.  

In December he stopped being interested in soothing himself to sleep.  I thought this probably had to do with being around family during the holidays and holding him so much, so we started letting him fall asleep in our arms and then putting him down to sleep.  We could get him to fall asleep on his own sometimes, but if we did have to "rock" him to sleep, it was something that could happen in like 5 minutes or less.  As long as he had his blankets, he was fine with going to sleep.  He started going to bed earlier - like 7 pm and would sleep without the middle of the night feeding, waking up for the day around 5 or 6 am.  This is when I got spoiled!  :)

When he would wake up, it was usually with cooing and giggles, and I would go in his room to unwrap him from his swaddle.  He would just stretch his arms out and give a huge grin.  I started to love mornings just so that I could see this sweet face!

Just as we were settling into this routine, he turned 4 months old in early January and we went to the doctor for his well baby visit.  I would first like to say that I love his doctor.  She is really great.  But she did give me some news I did not love.  She said no more swaddling.  Just like that.  Like it wasn't going to be a big deal to take away the biggest constant in my son's life or at least in his sleeping habits.   She said that he would maybe have a tough time with the transition at first, but it shouldn't take long and he would adapt.  He is just too big and strong that she said the swaddle is a danger to him if he were to roll over and get tangled up in it and suffocate.  

We left the office.

And then we started the hardest, longest nights I have experienced since we brought him home.

Night One-
We didn't get him to settle down to sleep until about 10pm.  He laid in his bed pretty peacefully at first, but since he wasn't swaddled up, he thought it was just play time and he kicked and waved his arms and did lots of talking and cooing (we heard him downstairs through the monitor).  When he realized that we weren't going to come and get him the tears started and they escalated quickly.  I am not very good at letting my baby cry.  I admit it.  It breaks my heart.  But I tried, for a while, until he got so worked up that I knew there was no way he was going to fall asleep like that.  I picked him up and soothed him, calmed him down and then tried again.  After several unsuccessful routines of that (both daddy and I taking turns), I tried getting him to fall asleep in my arms first and then transporting him to his crib.  As soon as I would lay him down he would start flailing his arms around and wake himself up.  So I stayed in his room and  held his arms down by his side while he settled down and fell asleep.  As soon as I would take my hands away though, he would wake back up.  It was a disaster.  I was a disaster.  And finally after all that effort to get him to finally stay asleep - it would only last for about 20-40 minutes on average.  We did finally make it through the night, but everyone woke up exhausted and grumpy.      

Night Two-
In some ways I think this night was harder than the first was like Hendrix knew what was coming and he dreaded it all evening long.  And his little voice was hoarse from the crying the night before.  And I was so tired that I had less energy to pour into this endeavor, I even suggested to my hubby that maybe he wasn't ready for this yet and we should wait a bit.  My hubby was a strong rock for me during these nights as he kept reminding me that this was all out of love and it was simply because we want to keep our little peanut safe. It was pretty much the same routine as the night before, but everything took just a tiny bit longer.  At some point in the night I just held him for a bit when he fell asleep in my arms, because at least I knew he would get some rest.  Poor Hendrix was exhausted.

I was ready to give up.  I talked to my Mom about it and she encouraged me to do what we thought was best, but said that she had used blankets with all of us when we were little.  I heard from a lot of friends who swaddled their babies much longer than four months.  I heard from friends who even sleep their babies on their tummies.  I had told my hubby that I thought we should just swaddle him for night three so he can get a good nights rest and then we can try again another time.  And then, I spoke with a friend from our small group who told me that she had read with sleeping habits that usually night three is the breakthrough night.   I wanted to be consistent and not ruin all the "progress", if you can even call it that at this point, that we had made.  So I looked for a compromise.

Night Three-
We swaddled Hendrix from the chest down leaving his arms free.  This made him all snuggled up and warm (which I wondered if this could be a big part of why he was missing the swaddle.....I had been putting more layers on him but our old house gets pretty chilly upstairs at night) but because it was further down on his body it made it safer if he were to roll over (which he hasn't mastered rolling from his back to his tummy yet) since the blanket wouldn't be anywhere near his face.  It seemed like a fairly manageable compromise.  Another friend had suggested that it was easier to wean them off of a swaddle gradually than going 'cold turkey'.  Well we had tried 'cold turkey' and that was unproductive.  
He went to bed at 7:30pm and other than waking up a couple times because he had lost his paci, which simply requires a visit to his room to help him relocate it, he didn't get up until 5am when he was ready to eat.  

 I consider that our success story!  While I am not convinced that the journey is completely over yet, I am more optimistic that in time we will be able to remove the blankets entirely and still have a successful sleeper. 

Many thanks go out to everyone who encouraged me and gave me words of advice....and to anyone who is trying a difficult transition with their baby - don't be afraid to just take baby steps.  Sometimes that is just the right choice.

The next item on my mommy checklist is to take the bumpers out of his crib....... 


  1. We had Lily swaddled for much longer after four months and when we did wean her we did it gradually -- that worked for us -- glad it seems to be working for you! And I know how hard it is to hear your baby cry...but they're better for it later on, I promise :)

  2. Good job sticking it out! I found with weaning my boys from pacis or loveys it also took 3 days. Just when you're about to break down and give in from exhaustion, they suddenly get it! Thank goodness for husbands who help keep us strong.


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