Category Archives: Sleeping

Standing is the new rolling

V. has learnt to stand up. It’s hugely enjoyable watching her clamber up onto her feet and wobble about. However it has lead to an unexpected regression in her night-time routine.

During the initial couple of hours in her cot, V. is waking at the end of each sleep cycle, pushing herself up onto her hands then climbing onto her feet. Unfortunately, she’s yet to learn how to sit back down unaided. So at this point she cries for help. It means we’re back to the situation we had a few weeks ago when she was rolling onto her front and getting similarly distressed. That all seems like a year ago, by the way.

We’ve decided for the time being, that as soon as the baby starts to cry, myself or F. goes into the room to pick her up. We rock her back to sleep in our arms. When she does nod off, we then gently place her in the cot and slide our arms out from under her, creep across the bedroom floor and close the door behind us. At all stages, she could wake and we’re back to the beginning of the process. It’s the creaking door that wakes her up the most. Even with oil on the hinges.

We know that there is a potential for the baby to quickly learn that this as the only way to get to sleep. That would undo weeks of hard work we (and that includes the baby) have gone through to have her put herself down.

We are also aware that, when she is put down, her sleep will be lighter than if she self-settled. Therefore creating a greater chance that she’ll wake again. But we needed a quick solution to get a chance of some sleep through the small hours of the night. Until V. learns to lie down by herself so she can return to sleep, her mother and I will have to regress our self-settling approach to V.’s sleep training.

Please let Daddy watch Zulu

Film poster for 1964 film Zulu
Film poster for 1964 film Zulu
Copyright: TBC
My dear daughter, as Mummy has gone out for the evening to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I have a rare evening babysitting you on my own. You’ve done so well with sleep training in recent months. But now I have a request.

I have plans to watch a couple of movies that Mummy won’t appreciate. No, not those kinds of movies. Mummy will indulge me when I order Thor on LoveFilm but she draws a line at a Michael Caine double bill of The Italian Job and Zulu.

So, can I please ask that you settle yourself down for the night from 8pm onwards? I can then pull up a chair in front of the tv, plug in my headphones and indulge in a probably not-too historically accurate boy’s own adventure. I am of course talking about Zulu, and not The Italian Job.

To enhance my enjoyment of the Zulu war chants, I need to find device that lets me listen to a movie on headphones but, when you cry, the sound channel switches automatically from the movie to the baby monitor. This way, I can play the movie as loud as I like without having to keep one eye out for the blinking lights of the monitor.

As a random thought, here’s some advice for any country looking for a new national anthem that will fire up a national team: you would do worse than consider John Barry’s theme music to Zulu. Play that before every international game: you’d never lose.

That track has made it to my iPod. But what I’m really after is a copy of the Zulu chants heard throughout the movie for my workout playlist.

“Do you think I could stand this butcher’s yard more than once?”

When parenting is like Metal Gear Solid

I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but about ten years ago, I remember really getting into Playstation’s Metal Gear Solid. As the first 3D stealth game, you made your way through the different levels of the game, often through the avoidance of armed guards.

If you were detected, the alarm would go up, the guards would get anxious and start looking for you. Your only recourse was to wait out their routine sweeps, avoid the guards’ sight and stay quiet. And you could stay like this for quite a while, until the guards eventually gave up the chase. You could then breathe a little easier. I can still hear in my head the ping the game made when ‘all clear’ came and I could and carry on with the mission.

A decade later, when V. is restless and crying at night and I’m on duty with her, I try to think of this waiting game like waiting for that ‘all clear’ ping in the game. When I have picked up V. to get her to fall asleep on my shoulder, I then have a very delicate time of it slowly returning her to her cot. I have to keep her close to my chest, bend over the side of the cot, lay her down, slide my hands out from underneath her and creep over to the nursery door. All in complete silence. Sometimes there’s a noise out on the street, or the floorboards creak or one of my bones click (!) and suddenly she’s rousing herself. I freeze, and think of waiting for those guards to give up their search for me. I have to just be patient and stick with the walkthrough me and the wife have designed.

Another time, I shall think of how to compare parenting with tossing a CS cannister into a room.

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

This last week has seen V. develop a taste for rolling from her back to her front. It’s a developmental milestone you hear about and she is bang on time. But it’s still a delightful surprise to watch it during playtime.

There’s a catch, though. She has also been doing it during some daytime naps, whilst lying in her cotbed. Rolling over wakes her up and she finds herself all twisted up in her sleep sack. V. cries and we find her on her tummy, unable to roll back onto her back. Nightime sleeps have not been disrupted in this way but we think its because she’s far too tired to be so active.

All the online advice seems to agree that this perfectly natural phase is disruptive to the baby’s sleep. The usual sources also agree that the baby will learn the skill of rolling back within a couple of weeks. To speed up the process, we’re encouraging rolling during playtime. By giving V. little nudges during tummy time, we’re hoping she’ll learn the skill for herself and will self-correct during naps. The knack with rolling is to tuck one arm under near you or lay it out along the floor, lying next to your ear and roll over that. Of course one leg has to bee thrown over the hip to help momentum.

In the meantime, me or F. tuck V.’s sleep sack a little tighter under the mattress to reduce the amount of rolling. I’ve also sewed a couple of snap fasteners into her daytime sleep sack to slightly reduce the wriggle room.

FYI the title of this blog is more Rawhide than Limp Bizkit. Although other answers I would have accepted are; Rolling in the Benjamins, Roll Out The Barrel or Rolling Thunder.

Putting her down for her mid-morning scream

Daytime naps are proving more difficult that sleeping through the night.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that we’re loosely following Alison Scott-Wright’s system for sleep training. This means baby gets two naps during the day. The first one occurs after an 11am feed. She then gets one after the 2.30pm feed.

It’s the morning nap that V. is not taking to. She simply does not want to go to sleep in the middle of a bright, sunny morning. In an attempt to tire her out a little more before putting down for a nap, we’ve increased playtime activities. It’s difficult to judge whether we’re tiring her out or showing her how much more fun she’s missing out on if she lets us put her down.

We only have a couple of months to go before our system recommends to drop one of the daytime naps. Of course, it’s the afternoon one that is supposed to go. We shall see how this goes down with the little lady.

Any baby-rearing system you care to try out – be it for sleep training, potty training or weaning – is only going to work by the grace of your baby and some major tinkering about to fit your personal circumstances.

We now sleep through the night

V. is four months old this week and she has, for the past couple of weeks, been sleeping through the night more or less from 7pm to 6.30am. The looks of surprise I get from other people, makes me think this is a rare occurrence. Here’s how we did it.

It all started when we realised that V. was growing out of the Moses basket we bought in June. She was getting ready to bust her arms and legs through the reed sides of the basket like some tiny pink Hulk.

We had a cotbed ready for her but it was never going to fit in our bedroom, so a move out of the Moses basket also meant a move into the nursery. So we thought we may as well bring sleep training into the mix as well and try it in one go.

We had already dipped into the several books on baby sleeping and the one we’ve ended up following (mostly) is Alison Scot-Wright’s The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan.

That’s the first time I have directly named a product. It’s not an endorsement because it may not work for your baby. But I thought it was important to give you the opportunity to judge the process we’re following for yourselves. We’re not following Scot-Wright’s suggestions to the letter. Like issues of breastfeeding, reusable nappies and baby-led weaning, sleep training has devotees in every corner. Don’t listen to them. Take every miracle solution offered with a pinch of salt and try it out for yourselves.

Time and time again, when it comes to raising babies, I think of the Bruce Lee quote “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is useless, and add that which is essential that is your own”.

Back to the sleep training. As I understand Scot-Wright’s basic approach, you put the baby down for regular naps during the day, regardless of how much the baby cries. Same goes for the evening, after bath and final feeding of the night. The parents are allowed back into the room time and time again to comfort the baby should the crying/screaming get too much. But you then have to vacate the baby’s room to allow her learn this skill of putting herself to sleep.

So far, it’s been working well. There are still some much disrupted evenings and daytime naps. And it is hard to say goodbye to her for a full 10 or 12 hours. But she seems happier getting all the sleep.

Quiet, please!

They say that babies ought to get used to the regular sounds of the house going on around them. Especially when it comes to getting them to sleep. That makes sense for parents, too. I don’t want to be creeping around the flat, unable to put the kettle on to make a cup of tea for fear of waking the baby from his afternoon nap.

But I’ve learnt very quickly that it’s worth doing anything to get a newborn to nod off. Here are three things I would have done differently to achieve a quieter environment:

• Find a Moses basket that doesn’t frickin’ rustle.

• Never buy a bib with a Velcro fastening (You give her a bottle, she starts to drop off. Then, to take off the bib, you scrunch open the velcro right next to her ear and she’s wide awake again).

• Fix every squeaky wooden board in the house; doors, floors, wooden slats on the bed, wardrobe doors.

The floorboards in V.’s room are very loose. So, when she’s in her cotbed and I don’t want to wake her, I step cautiously across the room, trying to avoid the known noise-making floorboard. I look like I’m playing Twister.

A cot bed, already

Tonight, V. is being introduced to her new cot bed. At three months, she’s almost punching her way out of the Moses basket. She could wear the basket as a hat. Myself and F. decided that the in-between option of a cot seemed unnecessary, so our daughter is trying out a bed that will be lasting her for the next 3 years or more. She also gets a pocket-sprung mattress that cost more, per square foot, than the one I sleep on. We lay V. down and step back. She lies there on top of a pristine white canvas, staring back at us. “She seems so small” says F. as our daughter flings out her arms, unencumbered for the first time by walls of flimsy reed. She has more space than I do, I think.

Not only is she in a new bed. She’s in her own room. This is a big jump and me and F. are relying heavily on the baby monitor to pick up ANY sounds of distress over night. It is a great monitor, but even so, we both know F. will be getting up in the night for a visual check. I’ve anticipated this and have been looking at baby video monitors online. This, I believe, is not paranoia. I think this is a clever use of technology to make good, attentive parenting a little easier. In the meantime, the volume on our audio baby monitor is set as high as possible and the doors to our bedroom and her room are ajar.

One thing F. noticed immediately. In the new bed, you can’t hear V. moving. In her basket, every move came with a rustle. She’s a pretty active sleeper so we’ve become used to hearing her in bed. Now, complete silence. Think I’ll order one of those video monitors.

The ‘Tiger in the Tree’ Hold

Tiger in the Tree hold.Image reproduced from BABYCALM by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group.
Tiger in the Tree hold.Image reproduced from BABYCALM by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group.

I don’t think many new Dads know how to hold a baby. And even fewer know about the ‘tiger in the tree hold’. I had even forgotten about this position, when I first learned about it at an NHS  pre-natal class. The teacher handed out a grainy, photocopy of a line drawing showing this hold. A few weeks after my daughter was born, though, her mother and I were having difficulties soothing her. Rocking didn’t work and neither did patting her on the back or ‘shh-shh-shh-ing’ I discovered the NHS handout from under a pile of papers and we gave it a go with great success.

Usually, the tiger in the tree hold is recommended for soothing colicky babies. But we’ve been using it for weeks now with V, who doesn’t have colic. It can work a treat for a variety of my daughter’s gripes: from full blown apoplexy to nothing more than a mild case of squirrely baby syndrome. I just flip her over to lie in a prone position along my forearm, her chin resting in the crook of my arm, and she calms right down. Of course, I’m finding out in these early weeks that results with a newborn do vary. But like the man said; 60% of the time, it works all the time.

The only downside to this position is dribble on the forearm and an aching shoulder.

This hold was especially useful to discover as V. has not proven to be a fan of the classic ‘bum cradled in the crook of the arm’ position. This is the go-to hold for all the Grandparents. But perhaps tiger-in-the-tree is new to western society? Quite a few parents I’ve talked to either don’t know this hold, or seem reluctant to use it. And even after I have demonstrated the power of the tiger, the Grandparents still prefer to sit V. upright, chin resting on her chest like a grumpy Winston Churchill.

Here’s a decent video from Cheshire mum Claire Lancaster and another, more advertorial, video showing the same hold with more of a newborn infant (the hold is demonstrated from 00:30).