Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the Family Way: Musings about Post-Partum Sleep and Swaddlers

I am 37 weeks pregnant as I type this. I’m scheduling this post a week in advance just in case my little peanut decides to show up early. I’m not sure how things happened so fast. I suppose the first half of a pregnancy might be the “fast half”, if you’re not feeling too sick during that time and if a whole heap of other variables align (heartburn, midnight pee trips, fatigue, etc). But for me, the first half tends to be the fast half. The second 20 weeks necessarily involves more physical discomfort, aches, pains and other unpleasant side effects of the hormonal changes taking place. At any rate, with this gestation marching on rapidly towards inevitable delivery, I’ve been mulling over the actual arrival of this baby much more and how exactly life will change.

This child is my 4th. My first three all arrived within 3 years, so this is my first time to have a newborn when I’m both an experienced mother and not also chasing tiny toddlers around. Sort of luxurious, if you ask me! But no matter how you cut this cake, newborns are tough on parents. I read recently that the average parent of a newborn loses 200 hours of sleep in the baby’s first year of life. 200. Two hundred. For a person used to getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, that is approximately the equivalent of not sleeping for an entire month! Good grief! How can I shuffle the future, details being what they will be, to cut that number down to a reality that isn’t so scary? 200 sounds about right given my other children’s respective first years. I don’t think any of them were regularly sleeping a normal night through until about 11 months old. Hmmm.

When my third was born, I finally got so bored during my hospital stay that I watched the new parent videos the hospital provided in their TV programming. It was then that I discovered The Happiest Baby on the Block. This is definitely worth a watch (if you’re in the hospital and it’s on the list of available videos) or a read. It outlines the 5 ways the soothe a crying baby… easily remembered by the 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side/stomach position, Shhh sounds, Swinging and Sucking. And, when applied to an irate neonate in combination, it really works! I’m not averse to a pacifier or well-monitored stomach sleeping, I have a swing around here somewhere, I’ve got an excellent white noise maker (the Cloud B Sleep Sheep… fabulous and portable!)… so my only real area for improvement is in the swaddling. We had previously swaddled with the hospital-size flannel receiving blankets, and never for long since our wiggly ones found how to get to their hands within a couple months. I’ve heard great things about the Miracle Blanket, but I’m a bit too “economical” and DIY-oriented to buy a new one just yet (though I picked up a couple used ones recently at a Mom2Mom sale and obviously haven’t tested them yet). It also seems to have a weak point where the arm-flaps join, so most used blankets aren’t so nice in the aesthetic department (though that’s really a negligible concern if they still keep the kid sleeping!). Here’s a picture of the holes I’m talking about (I’ve seen holes like this on every well-used Miracle Blanket I’ve encountered).


For this wee one, I am cooking up some different wrap blankets to keep those spastic little limbs under control, and hopefully keep our sleep loss to a minimum. First, you’ll remember that I made a nice large flannel receiving blanket and, at 43” square, it’s ample enough to securely swaddle a wiggly child for a couple months at least. For more security, a second smaller flannel blanket can be used behind the back, tucking the arms down to the sides like is done with the Miracle Blanket, before regular swaddling with this blanket. Not ideal for very warm weather, but we’ve got a few months before that’s going to be a real problem. I am also told that Aden and Anais make a very nice cotton gauze blanket in a 47” square size, but itmight break the bank.


And this knit swaddler, in my own design, should swaddle well and also avoid the problem of weak points (and the eventual holes) at the arm flaps that Miracle Blankets suffer. And an easier construction… Miracle Blankets are sort of weirdly assembled, in my opinion. I like to think human bodies are generally pretty symmetrical, but the pocket part of the Miracle Blanket is not symmetrical, and the bothers me. Pardon my apparent nerdliness. I have eliminated the secondary flap on the left side because I didn’t think it was at all necessary for secure wrapping, and I made the leg pocket and right arm flap from the same piece of fabric to cut down on the stress at that point caused when wrapping the baby. I used a really thin weight rayon/cotton knit from my remnant stash (was a little tricky to work with but better for warmer weather), and I used a simple serged picot edging to finish the raw edges quickly and without unnecessary bulk. A conventional machine zigzag stitch secures the pocket and right arm flap. Not bad albeit ugly… I’ve shown it on my 3 year old son’s baby doll (this is the only doll in our house… he is named Triceratops, in case you are questioning why the boy is the only one of my 3 children to care about dolls).


I’m looking forward to testing it out with a real newborn very soon :)


Alexis said...

I am so excited for you! Newborn without toddlers?! At least you'll get a chance to enjoy the new one :).
Re: swaddlers. I LOVE the Miracle Blanket. The weak spot is...well, the weak spot. When I've bought them for friends of mine I've reinforced that spot with soft baby fleece. It seems to work great. That being said I've used my one for 3 babes in a row for the first six months - every nap, every night and while the holes are quite large it is still functional.
But maybe next time 'round you'll be selling your own invention and I'll invest in that. Let us know how it works!

Alexis said...

I forgot to say that the Anais and Aiden blankets are worth it. Especially since you'll be nursing during the summer. They are great for covering up without being too hot. They are also great swaddlers initially but they need a true "swaddler" pretty quickly. Also, I would keep 2 and then give 2 away as a baby-gift for someone else. That makes the cost a little more reasonable.

Karen said...

Thanks for the good advice, Lexi!! I definitely like the look of the miracle blanket better than my hacked version, and the feel of the fabric is nicer. Too bad about that darn weak spot :) But I hadn't though about patching it... I will probably just give that a whirl with the second-hand ones I have around before I try to make another :)