Family life

The war of the crib

After a few battles, Katie's got a new take on parenting: do what works for you and your baby

By Katie Dupuis
The war of the crib Credit: IngaMun

Believe it or not, the most frustrating part for me about being a new parent is not the trial and error in calming the new babe, not the sleepless nights, and not even the inability to have a shower longer than a minute and a half. These were the things people warned me about, so I was prepared. Nope, for me, the aspect of parenting that most gets on my nerves is the insane amount of information out there and trying to discern right from wrong.
There is no wrong, you say, and I understand that. But this blog is about being a regimented, organized, scheduled kind of girl and thus, I want the straight facts. I wish they'd handed me a piece of paper upon leaving the hospital with a set of rules by which every child should be raised. Yes, I know this is impossible, and no, I don't want to raise my child exactly the same way as everyone else, but, man, it would be a lot easier than trying to sift through the piles and piles of opposing research (and, more often than not, opinion). Or so I thought.
This week, I had an epiphany. And it goes something like this: Sometimes you just have to throw the book out the window. It's fine to look things up and be informed, and it's fine to be up on the popular opinion of the day, but the bottom line is that what works for someone else's kid won't necessarily work for yours. Of course I think you should heed the directives from the major national and global health organizations, but the rest of it? Go with your gut. This is why a set of rules won't work.
Now, how did I come to this realization? Easy. The War of the Crib.
My beautiful, smile-y, funny daughter likes to sleep with her mom and dad. She likes to be splayed across one of us, her head snuggled up on our chests. And maybe that would be fine for me (as it's fine for other people) if I wasn't The Anxiety Queen (you should see the crown — it's really heavy). This means that for the past 10 weeks, I've been half-sleeping. Ridiculous to some, I'm sure, given that Sophie is actually a terrific little sleeper so far. She has been since Day One. But I had visions of her falling off, getting stuck between pillows, etc. etc. and I just wanted to obey all of the SIDS literature to put my mind a little more at ease. Too bad Sophie wasn't having it.
The final straw was a trip to the paediatrician, who is quite liberal and doesn't seem against co-sleeping as long as it's done properly, who said that having her sleep on us was the most dangerous option. That was that, and the War of the Crib began.
The first night was brutal. We tried every trick we'd read about or been told: Harvey Karp (only the white noise seemed to do anything); The Miracle Blanket (not so miraculous); picking her up and rocking her to sleep again every time she cried; singing Devo's "Whip It" or Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (that was Blaine) or the theme song to Growing Pains (a duet we've now perfected). Nothing worked. She was awake from 7p.m. until 3 a.m. when we finally gave in and let her sleep with us.
The next night we tried again. Same bedtime routine we've had for the past month — bath, breast, bed. This time, we decided we wouldn't pick her up but we'd sit with her and talk to her and hold her hand or put a hand on her belly. It worked marginally better but not much, and she still cried. Around 9:45, my mom called. Nonna to the rescue. She said "Katie, what's in the crib with her?" Horrified, I said, "Mom! Nothing! All the SIDS rules say do NOT put ANYTHING in the crib!" She said, "Katie, would you like to get into a bed without even a semblance of coziness?" Good point. Her suggestion? To take a lightweight, rectangular blanket and tuck it tightly down the sides of the crib and under the mattress and then slide Sophie in, only to just past the belly button, so that her little legs were warmer. The blanket would be tight enough that she wouldn't be able to kick it loose or get stuck (I did actually read later that if you are going to use a blanket, this is the way to do it). I, The Anxiety Queen, gave it a shot. Of course, Sophie breathed a sigh of relief, her daddy stroked her hair for a couple of minutes, and she fell fast asleep. For four hours. When she woke up to eat and then went back down for four more. Amazing.
We're now on night #4 of the same Nonna-patented regimen and it's working like a charm. I wouldn't say I'm able to sleep completely just yet — I do have a royal title to uphold — but I'm 3/4-sleeping two feet away from the crib, and that's an improvement. 
Anyway, the lesson learned in all of this? It's OK to read the research and the forums, to listen to friends and family, but at the end of the day (literally), it could be something completely unknown or unique that will do the trick. And of course there will be people who disagree, who will think that I should have kept Soph in my bed, but it had to be what I was comfortable with and I needed her in the crib. Like the Harvey Karp white noise — we highly recommend the blow-dryer sound in our house — I'm just choosing to block all the rest out.
Photo by IngaMun via Flickr

This article was originally published on Jan 27, 2012

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