Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle

Ever since she was born, Little E has been wrapped up like a  caterpillar to sleep. Swaddling is supposed to comfort newborn babies, and assist them to sleep by preventing them from hitting and scratching themselves. Little E very quickly got to the point where she would not fall asleep unless tightly swaddled, or, if she did manage it without the wraps, would wake up soon after.

For the past few weeks she has begun crying whilst being wrapped up, but has then relaxed as soon as they are on and she is in her bed. However, we have had to become trickier and more precise about exactly how the swaddles go on, as the bigger and stronger she gets, the better she is at unwrapping herself. Given the hand development that has occurred in the last couple of weeks, once her hands are out she will almost instantly pull or knock her dummy out. Of course she does not seem to appreciate that it is her who has removed the dummy - she appears to think a large, invisible giant has ripped it from her mouth, and the discovery that it is lying on the blanket next to her is always met with unamused wails. I also had started to wonder how she would ever transition from being swaddled to sleeping just under blankets - I had visions of chasing a two year old around the house and trying to lie her on the table to wrap her up to sleep!

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested we use a "miracle blanket" and kindly loaned us her son's old ones. These are great, but Little E is getting too long for them and I worried that they were cramping her legs. Recently we have been using them without the foot pouch (ie, just using them to pin her arms to her sides).

A few times during the day recently I have tried putting Little E down for naps in just a grobag sleeping bag. Because it leaves her arms free, it takes her much longer to fall asleep, and although she has managed it a few times for daytime naps, they are not as long as if she is swaddled and I hadn't been brave enough to try it at night.

We hadn't come to any decision about what to do, but last night things hit critical point. I suppose after four nights of 8.5-9 hours sleep we were due for a hard one again! We had a nice day at Mum & Grandma's, but E did not sleep quite as much as usual and was very tired by about 7.30. We tried to wrap her, to be met with the usual grizzling and complaining, which escalated into full blown howls. Patting and singing in the cradle, and eventually walking and patting and singing whilst still wrapped did not help. The second I lay her on the table to unwrap her she was happy (although still wide awake).
We decided to put her in the grobag. This meant that she needed to sleep in her big cot (in her own room) rather than the cradle, because she has gotten so big that when she throws her arms around they hit the cradle bars. She has had some daytime sleeps in the cot, but never overnight. Having her in the cradle next to our bed is such a convenience I have been reluctant to graduate her into the cot and her own room. I also worry that I won't hear her as quickly as if she was right next to me, and consequently she will have to grizzle/cry longer, wake up more thoroughly, and be harder to get back to sleep. Also the anti-SIDS mob suggest keeping the baby in parents' bedroom until at least 6 months. However, it was clear that the usefulness of swaddling, and therefore the cradle, had come to an end, so I stuck her in the grobag and into her cot at about 8.00 and decided to see how she went.
By 10.00, her arms were still flailing frantically, she was knocking her dummy out every few minutes and then crying because it was gone and her head was thrashing from side to side. She was due to eat anyway, so I took her into bed with me, fed her and she fell asleep in my arms (still in the sleeping bag). I carefully transferred her back to her cot. She woke up instantly, and the flailing resumed. Until this point her bedroom lights were on very low (the light has a dimmer switch) so I could see what she was doing. I then turned them off completely, and sat next to her cot sticking the dummy back in every few minutes. She almost fell asleep a few times but kept waking herself up. Around midnight I decided she might be cold despite the grobag, and added a blanket, tucked as tightly into the sides of the cot mattress as I could manage. I sat leaning over the cot, pressing both her hands to her chest with one hand and patting her with the other. Either exhaustion, or half an hour or so of this, did the trick and she finally fell asleep.
I woke up at 3.30 panicking because I hadn't heard a squeak out of her for hours, before remembering she was in the cot. I snuck into her room and she was fine. At 4.30 she woke up and I bolted out of bed to put the dummy back in. At 5.00 I did the same thing. And at 5.15. This time she was properly awake and 15 minutes of patting and hand restraining were to no avail. I decided to try swaddling her on top of the sleeping bag and, surprisingly, she seemed relatively happy with just the grobag and miracle wrap (as opposed to the miracle wrap topped by a flannelette swaddling cloth). At any rate it put her back to sleep around 5.45, and she stayed that way until about 8.00.
At 8.00 she woke up hungry and grumpy. She ate and had a brief play in her play gym and green chair whilst I had breakfast. I then stuck her back in the grobag, but this time with her arms stuffed inside it. We did try this once quite some time ago and she hated it, but today has been asleep for nearly 2 hours. We are supposed to be at mothers' group this morning, but I decided that hopefully getting back to the 9-hours-at-nighttime routine is more important. If I knew she was going to sleep for 2 hours I would have had a nap as well!


Emily said...

I needed a nap after reading this!! I should have told you that we did exactly what you did with Henry when he got too long (left the feet part out of the wrapping) and we got a good few weeks more out of the wraps which was just long enough for him to become acquainted with his arms... oh it's me waking me up!! So he was sleeping in the grobags with his arms out at around 16/17weeks.

Incidentally, we've had a couple of early morning wake ups as well. We tried the, never as yet successful, sleeping in the bed with us technique only to discover that Henry was only comfortable when lying on my head. He then proceeded to attempt a scalping on Tama and that was the end of that experiment : )

ANB said...

Postscript: we have continued putting Eli to sleep with arms inside the grobag, sometimes one arm out. We also acquired two bags that are midway between swaddling cloths and sleeping bags: http://www.ergopouch.com.au/swaddle.html. They are stretchy and zip up the front. Arms can be in or out but if they are in the baby can move them around and suck hands through the cloth rather than having arms pinned to their sides. Seems to be working ok.

_vTg_ said...

LOL the memories!
If it makes you feel better my understanding is that some of the SIDS guidelines are based on quite small/specific populations (there were some (I forget which) based on smoking Glaswegian families) so sleeping alone at 3 months probably isn't a high risk behaviour! (We kept M in our room until about that time whereas poor old J was on his own (so his door could be shut) from day 1!
Hope the good sleep returns!

ANB said...

Thanks - I read some other studies as part of frantic googling about solutions re swaddling transitioning, which say that swaddling is a bad thing, apparently because there was, amazingly (not!) a higher incidence of SIDS in babies swaddled and put on their fronts. I am glad to say that the thought of swaddling a baby so it can't move, then putting it face down, had not occurred to me.

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