13 little-known tricks to gently help your baby sleep

Parents don’t need to sleep.

You know that, right?

Babies need sleep. It’s absolutely essential for their neurological development that they get at least 70% of the recommended hours of sleep (which you can reference here). If they get less, their cognitive development will be permanently stunted, mostly because their parents will be too tired to play with the baby or do anything other than sit and stare at him.

Toddlers need sleep too — even more than babies. If a toddler or preschooler doesn’t get at least 75% of the minimum recommended hours of sleep, he will become so cranky, irritable, and difficult that most parents will be forced to shut themselves in a closet and hold the door closed while the toddler pounds on the other side and screams that he needs a cookie NOW. This can have permanent negative consequences on a toddler’s emotional and social development.

But parents? We don’t need sleep. It’s perfectly fine — normal, even — for a parent to stay up all night trying every trick imaginable to persuade a wide-eyed baby to drift into dreamland.

And fortunately, there are a whole lot of tricks to try. You can fill a whole night with different creative attempts to get a baby to sleep.

If your baby sleeps well, you will never need to try most of these. I hope you never do. But if you have a baby who can’t sleep, there are many ways to help him. Here’s a collection of some of the less common ones I’ve tried.

1. Play different kinds of white noise. You’ve probably heard that white noise is helpful for sleep, because it sounds similar to the rush of blood through your veins that your baby listened to while in the womb. For most babies, the noise should be louder than you would expect it needs to be. The sounds in the womb are really loud. But what you may not know is that some babies might be soothed by a particular type of white noise even though other types disturb them. So it’s worth it to try different kinds if your first attempt isn’t helpful. Some babies like random noise, like a vacuum, radio static, or a coffee grinder. Others prefer rhythmic noise, like a heartbeat toy, a train, or rain falling. Get a white noise machine with different sounds on it — you can buy one for about $20 at Target — and try them all.

2. Vary the motion. You know that bouncing or rocking can help your baby sleep. But you may not know that alternating between them can be more effective than either alone. Try swinging your baby back and forth in a cradle motion and then shifting to a gentle up-and-down bounce. Sometimes the shift in motion distracts your baby enough to enable him to relax and fall asleep.

3. Ignore him. No, I don’t mean leaving your baby alone in a crib and sleep training him. I just mean not looking at him. For some babies, the stimulation of eye contact is so exciting that they have to stay awake for it. If your baby is older than four months and has good head control, try wearing him on your back — the physical contact combined with the lack of face-to-face interaction might do the trick. If that doesn’t work, try holding him or patting him without looking at him. You can gaze over his head or close your own eyes to set an example of what you want him to do. Yes, you’ll look silly. But nobody’s looking.

4. Try a new bed. If your baby is sleeping well, then you should keep the bedtime routine — and location — the same. But if he stops sleeping well, he may be telling you that he’s outgrown his current location. If he’s in your bed, try a hammock bed or a crib. If he’s in a crib, try a floor bed or your bed.

5. Breathe deep. Of course you can’t control how your baby breathes — although you can teach a toddler to breathe deeply and slowly — but you can help him relax by relaxing yourself. Try holding him close to your body or lying next to him and relaxing your own body. Take deep, slow breaths, and slowly relax all your muscles. Your baby might follow suit.

6. Make a nest. Little babies often love to be swaddled, but older babies and toddler can benefit from similar strategies too. A smaller space can make sleep come more easily. For babies too old to be swaddled, try a sleep sack, a hammock bed, or a “human swaddle” — wrap your arms around him gently so he can’t wiggle around so much. Your toddler may love a body pillow to snuggle up against or a canopy bed so he’ll feel more enclosed. My daughter often sleeps curled up in her play tent on top of her bed.

7. Experiment with lighting. Think pitch-black darkness is the best way to induce sleep? It may not be. Remember that babies are biologically adapted to sleep outdoors, so light that mimics the night sky might make sleep come easier. A nightlight that projects stars onto the ceiling will give an older baby or toddler something interesting to look at. Or a flickering nightlight that imitates candlelight could help your baby relax.

8. Lower the temperature. The evening drop in temperature is one of nature’s signals telling your brain it’s time to sleep. That’s why baths are often a useful part of a bedtime routine: when you take your baby out of the bath, the air on his wet skin makes his body temperature drop, which helps make him sleepy. Try turning the thermostat down a degree or two, or open the window if it’s nice out, and the evening chill might make your overactive baby chill out.

9. Start bedtime in the morning. Forget bedtime routines. For a troubled sleeper, your bedtime routine starts the minute your child wakes up. You can’t control what time he goes to sleep, but you can control when he wakes up, so wake him up on time, and get him outside, even if just for a few minutes. Being out in the sunlight will trigger his brain to be awake — which will mean better sleep once night rolls around.

10. Plan your day around naps. Try scheduling your day around naptimes. Even if you can’t get your baby to sleep for “naptimes,” make sure he rests and has the opportunity to sleep. But don’t spend all day trying. Schedule a reasonable amount of times for naps (60 minutes if he’s on 3 naps a day, 90 if he’s on 2, or 2 hours if he’s on one nap), and if he doesn’t go to sleep in that amount of time, then continue with your day and wait for the next nap. And if he falls asleep late (say, at 10:30 for a nap that was supposed to start at 9:30), then wake him after an hour if he hasn’t woken on his own. Napping too late will push bedtime later, which will push your day later the next day, which will start an endless cycle of later-and-later sleep.

11. Forget about naps. Some babies resist all attempt to be scheduled. If your baby is one of those, try ignoring nap schedules. You might discover that your baby sleeps better while you go about your day. He might resist all efforts to sleep at home but fall asleep happily the minute you put him in the stroller, the car seat, or the Ergo. If that’s the case, you might be able to shift him onto a nap schedule that involves you going out for a walk instead of putting him in bed.

12. Give him lots of exercise. Even non-mobile babies need exercise. Wearing him in a carrier gives him the opportunity to move his body in tandem with yours and feel how to balance his muscles. A few minutes on the floor give him the chance to stretch his limbs and discover his fingers and toes. Older babies and toddlers, of course, need to practice crawling, standing, walking, running, jumping on trampolines, and climbing to the top of the bookshelf.

13. Know your baby’s personality. I don’t advocate “crying it out” for any baby (although if you decide that’s what you need to do for yourself and your family, I support you in making that choice for yourself — it’s just not a technique I’m going to address here), but the reality is that some babies need to fuss before they can sleep, especially if they’re overtired. Some babies work up more stress by crying, and some let out stress by crying. So if your baby needs to fuss in your arms while you soothe him to sleep, don’t feel bad for “doing CIO.” You’re not. An earlier bedtime can sometimes help, but not necessarily. If your baby calms down pretty quickly and goes to sleep, then you know it was because he was tired. It’s okay to be tired at bedtime.

And if none of these work? Take comfort in the reminder that you, at least, do not need sleep. You are strong. You are like a Spartan who can fight for days without food, water, or rest. All you need is a little caffeine and a sweet baby smile.

And as for your baby’s neurological and socio-emotional development being affected by lack of sleep? Don’t worry about that. Worst case scenario is that your baby turns out a little less smart than he otherwise would have been, which seriously? Is okay. It just means he’ll have to work a little harder to outsmart you.

Disclaimer: I am kidding about parents not needing sleep. Obviously. You need lots of sleep and you should get it however and whenever you can. Also, I’m kidding about the brain development. Your baby will be fine if he doesn’t nap. 

I’m not kidding about caffeine.

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the real dangers of cosleeping

the real dangers of cosleeping

Cosleeping is a controversial practice these days. You’ve probably heard the warnings: it will ruin your sleep, destroy your marriage, prevent your child from developing independence, and give your baby an oedipal complex. Not to mention raising the risk of SIDS, asphyxiation, and overlying.

These accusations are untrue. Done properly, cosleeping can be very safe. Just like with crib sleeping or carseat use, you need to follow guidelines. But more babies die in cribs than in adult beds. And nobody’s throwing out all the cribs. (Wait, actually they did. But that was just so they could make us all buy new ones with safer standards.) And instead of issuing blanket condemnations of cosleeping, we ought to be issuing cosleeping safety recommendations.

And then, maybe, if the cosleeping guidelines for babies were more widely known and practiced, we could move on to make cosleeping safer for parents. Because right now, it’s a little dangerous. No, you won’t suffocate from it. But you are likely to suffer some injuries. And the current cosleeping safety guidelines don’t even address these dangers.

Don’t believe me? Let me explain. Here are some of the dangers you risk by cosleeping.

1. Cramps and aches. These stem from the fact that you cannot choose your sleeping position. For as long as you cosleep, your baby will choose your position for you. Amazingly (and rather beautifully), most cosleeping mothers end up sleeping in almost exactly the same position.

You will probably be most comfortable (I use the word loosely) lying on your side, facing the baby, with your arm above your baby’s head, your boob conveniently exposed, and your body curved protectively toward him with a slight twist of your back to make your boob more accessible to his mouth. If you think this doesn’t sound dangerous at all, you’re right. This is an extremely safe position for your baby. Your arm serves the double purpose of keeping pillows and blankets away from his face and preventing you from rolling toward him, and your facing him keeps you aware of his movements throughout the night. But it is an pretty uncomfortable position for you. Especially if you sleep in exactly the same position every night for three years. You will wake up with arm cramps, neck cramps, back cramps, shoulder cramps, leg cramps, and possibly carpal tunnel. Get a good chiropractor. You’ll need it.

2. Repression. Well, either that or regression to your wild pre-baby ways. Yes, I’m talking about sex. Your sex life could become either nonexistent or really creative. Don’t take this the wrong way, because I don’t want to imply that cosleeping partners never — or can’t — have sex. Obviously, it’s perfectly possible to have sex outside of your bed, right? And what better way to get out of a sex rut than to be forced to find different locations?

Not to mention the spark added by the possibility of interruption. Nothing spices up your sex life like the fear of getting caught. (You used to be scared you’d get caught by your parents. Now you’re scared you’ll get caught by your toddler. See? Circle of life.) What with the fear of the baby waking and the excitement of getting busy on the kitchen table, cosleeping can actually be really good for your sex life.

Not that I have ever done the kitchen table thing. Don’t need to. We have a guest bed.

But if you are neither lucky enough to have a guest bed nor adventurous enough to christen the rest of the furniture in your house, then your sex life — and your relationship — could suffer.

3. Bruises. As your baby gets older, he may get more wiggly at night. You may get kicked in the teeth. And the boobs. And the ear. And the chest. And the arm. And the mouth.

This is when many parents decide their cosleeping days are over. If that’s you, be assured you’re not alone. Nobody wants to wake up with toe-shaped bruises on their face.

In the meantime, keep your toddler’s toenails trimmed. At least then you won’t get scratches with your bruises.

4. Overcrowding. You will have no space in your bed. Almost. Actually you’ll have about five inches. Your spouse will have the same. Your baby will take up the rest. This is true no matter how wide your bed is. You could have three king beds all in a row, and your baby would still take up all the space, minus about five inches on either side. Cosleeping babies are like gaseous molecules. They expand to fill all available space.

Learn to sleep in a small space. It’s good practice for if you ever have to downsize your bedroom. You and your spouse will both be able to sleep in a twin comfortably, with room to spare.

5. Insomnia. I’m not talking about the lack of sleep you’ll experience while you’re cosleeping. Of course your baby will wake you, but he’d be doing that no matter where he was sleeping, and cosleeping parents actually get more sleep than those who sleep in separate rooms. No, I’m talking about the long-term danger of cosleeping: the insomnia you’ll suffer for the rest of your life. Because no matter how uncomfortable and difficult cosleeping seems while you’re doing it, and no matter how impossible it seems that your baby will ever move to his own bed, eventually the day will come when he no longer sleeps with you. You will wake up one day and discover that you can sleep in any position you want, and no one is kicking you or grabbing you or chewing on you, and no one is waking you up in the middle of the night because they want to eat. You will stretch out your arm across what feels like an endless and empty stretch of bed before you find another human, who will feel so far away he might as well be in another country.

And when that day comes — that day that you long for so eagerly now — you may discover something. You may discover that having your bed to yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You might find that you miss the warm, cuddly softness of a baby pressing against you in the middle of the night, the sweet smell of a baby’s breath on your face, the comforting feeling of a baby rooting against your chest. You might even find that it’s hard to sleep without your baby snuggled next to you like a human teddy bear.

Besides, by the time your baby finally quits cosleeping, he’ll probably be a teenager, so you’ll be lying awake wondering when he’ll get home and worrying that he’s crashed the car.

And that is why they tell you that once you have kids you will never sleep again.

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5 baby sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making

5 baby sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making

sleeping babySleeping through the night. It’s the ultimate goal of the early parenting years, the Holy Grail of baby experts. The road to a full nights’ sleep is a mountain you climb, armed with swaddling blankets, pacifiers, and coffee, until at last you reach the top and get to experience an uninterrupted REM cycle. And then you feel rested. Until you hit the preschool night terrors, which will disturb your sleep until you reach the grade school overcommitment anxiety wakings, which will keep you up till your kid’s a teenager. At which point you will never sleep again.

But in the meantime, you really need at least a couple of nights.

So, you do what the experts tell you to do. You make sure your baby isn’t overtired. You try to follow his emerging nap schedule. You put him down drowsy but awake. You try bedsharing, cosleeping, and sleeping alone. You try every sleep prop on the market, from mobiles to heartbeat teddy bears. But no matter what you do, your baby won’t sleep all night. Why?

I hate to break it to you, but the real reason he won’t sleep all night is because he’s not supposed to. Contrary to everything that experts, other parents, and your own exhausted brain tell you, babies are not supposed to sleep all night. Most babies don’t. If their parents tell you otherwise, chances are they’re lying. (And to everyone who is about to comment and tell me that their baby really does sleep all night: of course I’m not talking about you. You are more rare than you think. Please stop making the rest of us feel even more tired than we already are.

Unless you’re lying, in which case I am talking about you.) 

So is there any hope for sleep-deprived parents? Maybe. Sometimes, the best solution to lack of sleep is a zen mindset of acceptance and patience. Eventually, your baby will not need your help to go back to sleep. Even if he’s an adult insomniac, someday it won’t be your problem any more. In the meantime, you might feel better if you can avoid some of the mistakes I made.

1. Fighting the normal patterns of human sleep. I bet you didn’t know it’s normal for humans to wake at night. In fact, in the Middle Ages (before the invention of electricity and consequent late bedtimes), everyone expected to be awake for a while in the middle of the night. Medical texts of the time refer to the “first sleep” of the evening and “second sleep” after midnight, which were separated by a period of wakefulness. (Most medieval experts recommended using this time for “contemplation and prayer.” Which is probably pretty good advice for us parents, too. You can use the time to pray that your spouse will wake up and take a turn already.) So when your baby wakes up at 2 am and wants to play, he’s not experiencing day-night confusion. He’s just experiencing modern world confusion. His body hasn’t figured out the invention of electricity.

Is there anything you can do about this? Not really, other than keeping the lights off and avoiding playtime as much as possible. But it might make you feel better to know that it’s normal. Unlike your eleven o’clock bedtime.

2. Fighting the baby’s instinct of self-preservation. If you are trying to get your baby to sleep apart from you, you’re fighting your baby’s instincts. Which isn’t to say you can’t teach your baby to sleep alone if you want to. Just be aware that it may be an uphill battle. Unlike some mammals (think bears, wolves, and rats), human babies are not designed to be left alone at all. Ever. Like kangaroos and monkeys, they expect to be carried continually and fed constantly throughout the day and night. A baby left alone will cry because its instincts tell it that any time it doesn’t feel the physical contact of an adult body, it’s vulnerable to predators. So if your baby doesn’t want to be set down, ever, don’t call him high-needs. Call him a person with a strong survival instinct. This is a child who is going to make it through the zombie apocalypse.

3. Misunderstanding the causes of night nursing. Most babies who wake at night want to breastfeed. If they’re not breastfeeding, they want a bottle or a pacifier. This is not necessarily because they’re hungry. It’s because sucking releases calming hormones that help your baby sleep. If you think the nighttime feedings are motivated by hunger, you might be tempted to try starting solids to get your baby to sleep better. But this usually doesn’t work. After the newborn stage, most babies aren’t eating at night because they’re hungry–unless, of course, they’re reverse cycling, or in the middle of a growth spurt, or in a wonder week, or too busy learning to crawl to eat during the day, or getting more exercise and needing more food. Ok, so maybe they are hungry. Who knows?

All of which is to say: it’s hard to know why your baby is waking at night. But just as with anything else, if you try to stop night waking with a solution that doesn’t address the real reason for the wakings, it’s not going to help.

But you could try sucking your own thumb. The calming hormones work for adults too.

4. Wanting a single magic solution. It’s easy to think that if you could just figure out the right solution, your baby would start sleeping all night, every night. In reality, it’s never that simple. There are thousands of reasons why babies wake at night, and sometimes the only real solution is time. It’s frustrating when your neighbor or friend keeps telling you that such-and-such solution is the magic answer to every parent’s sleep problems. But just because it worked for their baby doesn’t mean it will work for yours.

Which isn’t to say you can’t try. The more solutions you try, the better chance that one of them will work, at least for a while. As long as you don’t feel strongly opposed to a particular solution — say, letting your baby cry for long periods — it’s worth a shot. Try The No-Cry Sleep Solution, which has a nice method for reducing the suck-to-sleep association, or Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which has a lot of different ideas for different parenting styles, or Sleepless in America (my absolute favorite book on sleep), which has a lot of solutions for high-needs babies. Oops, I mean babies with a strong survival instinct.

Or, you could try this magic baby sleeping pill.

5. Thinking you can solve night waking once-for-all. Sleeping all night — or at least going back to sleep without help — is a developmental ability that every child achieves eventually. But even if your child does it once, that doesn’t mean he’ll do it regularly. With most developmental milestones, we expect this pattern. If your baby rolls over once, you say he’s achieved that milestone — even though he may “forget” how to do it and not do it again for weeks. Ditto for walking, talking, and climbing to the top of the bookshelves when you’re not looking. Sleeping long stretches is the same. Most babies will do it once or twice just to tantalize you with the knowledge that they can right before they hit another growth spurt and start waking again because they’re actually hungry. Or because they’re teething and in pain. Or because they had a nightmare. Or because they know you’re in a deep sleep and they want to test your zombie survival skills, which include the ability to wake up quickly in response to sudden noises.

The bright side? You will survive this. Really. On the other side of the mountain of sleep deprivation, there’s a green valley full of bright flowers, peaceful streams, and long nights of sleep. Someday, you’ll look back on the years of night waking and remember them like something in a dream. (Actually a nightmare.) “Sleep problems?” you’ll say, shaking your head like a war veteran. “Let me tell you about sleep problems.”

Yes, it’s hard to imagine now, but someday, your baby’s sleepless nights will be a distant memory. You’ll remember them with something almost like nostalgia. I did it, you’ll say to yourself: I survived the zombie years.

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what to do when your baby is awake in the night

what to do when your baby is awake in the night

Last night, my wonderful sleeping newborn, who has slept so well since he was born, decided to sleep like a baby instead.

Darn newborn sleep.

Anyway, he was awake and crying from 2 am to 4 am. Lovely. I know this because I’m tracking his sleep patterns, on the off chance that a pattern will naturally emerge like people say it’s supposed to. But even though he’s never slept “all night” as in ten hours, he usually sleeps “all night” as in six hours, and last night was the first time that he was awake for a long stretch in the middle of the night. Lucky me.

Fortunately, I’ve got lots of experience staying up with crying kids in the middle of the night. It was par for the course for my daughter. So, based on my experience over the past few years, here’s my list of what to do when your baby won’t go back to sleep. Keep in mind that you should only turn to this list after your usual techniques have failed. If you’re cosleeping, for example, then most of the time when your baby wakes up you can just roll over, put a boob in his mouth, and go back to sleep. But when that doesn’t work, and nothing else does either, here’s what you do.

1. Do not try to go back to sleep yourself. Stop even thinking about sleep. The more that you long for sleep, the more your baby will resist it. They sense weakness. Be strong.

2. Do not turn on the lights. That would make baby think it is daytime. He already wants to think this, so you need to prevent that belief. Keep a flashlight or nightlight by the bed so overhead lights will never be necessary. I use the flashlight app on my iphone. Avoid all lights if possible. Learn to see in the dark, like a vampire. Or else just memorize where you put everything so you can do stuff without any light.

3. Change the diaper and offer the potty. Seriously, even if you’re not doing EC, you should try a potty position. The classic EC hold is perfect for both pooping and burping. Do it with a diaper on if you don’t have a potty and don’t want to go to the bathroom. If your baby is struggling with a poop or a burp or a fart, this will help.

4. Start doing something entertaining that you enjoy. Reading is good (I read ebooks on my phone, since the screen is lit up so I don’t have to turn on any lights or deal with a booklight), but watching a movie is even better. Why? Because it takes longer, and you don’t usually stop in the middle of movies. The best choice is something you love but never get the chance to do during the day, like watching that silly tv show that your partner refuses to watch with you. The likelihood that this activity will actually help your baby go back to sleep is directly proportional to how much you enjoy it and how long it takes. If you start a movie that you’ve been wanting to watch forever, I guarantee your baby will be asleep within minutes.

Well, either that or he’ll start crying so loud that you can’t hear the movie. But at least you tried.

5. Read about developmental stages and how they cause sleep disturbances. The wonder weeks site (or the book if you have it) is a good start. This will not improve things, but it will make you feel better. Now you have an explanation for your baby’s sleeplessness! The best part of this is that the wonder “weeks” actually have a pretty wide range when they can occur, and since they happen pretty frequently, you can convince yourself that any week is actually part of a wonder week. Which will give you hope that it will end soon.

Which may or may not be true, and even if it does, there’s another wonder week coming right on the heels of this one. But like I said, it will make you feel better.

6. If you really can’t convince yourself, by any stretch of the imagination, that you’re in a wonder week, then try reading baby sleep advice sites. This will not make you feel better–it’ll make you certain that you’re doing everything wrong (because no matter what you’re doing to help your baby sleep, there’s an expert who will tell you you’re doing it wrong), but it will make you feel like you’re doing something constructive. You’re actually not, because most baby sleep advice is all the same, and most of it starts with what you do during the day. But reading about it might make you feel like there is something you can do. Which is probably not true, but it’s a nice thing to think about in the middle of the night. And you’ll probably forget all the advice by morning anyway, so no harm done.

7. Go on facebook and post a status about how you’re feeling right now. Ok, so some of your friends might defriend you if you posted what you really feel right now. But that’s okay. They weren’t real friends anyway. As a new parent, you need friends who can take the complaining about lack of sleep.

8. Call a friend in a different timezone. If you’re lucky enough to have friends in, you know, China. Just be sure you calculate the time zones correctly. Your friend in California will not appreciate it if you call them at 3 am EST. It’s not that much earlier there.

9. Go outside. Sit on your porch and watch the moonrise. Or the sunrise. Or Venus rising. Or whatever the heck is going on in the sky right now and who really cares what planet that is anyway? But the cold air might help baby sleep.

10. Make your partner take a turn. I put this last on the list out of respect for single parents, who probably need ideas for dealing with night wakings more than parents with partners do. But if your partner is around, then by all means, move this option to the top of the list. If you’ve been awake for an hour and baby isn’t going back to sleep, then by golly it’s the other parent’s turn.

11. If all else fails, get up for the day. Make some coffee (lots of coffee), and eat breakfast. Fold laundry. Whatever. If you have older kids, start looking for a babysitter for the afternoon so you can take a nap later. If you have a job, email your boss and tell him you won’t be coming in today. Because at some point, eventually, your baby will sleep. I promise. He won’t stay awake forever. And when he does finally go back to sleep, you should do the same.

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having a second child

having a second child

I heard a friend say recently that second babies are born to make fools of Mama.

I wouldn’t say that Teddy is making a fool of me–Anastasia pretty much has that covered–but he certainly is showing me how different babies can be. If I hadn’t birthed both of them, I’d find it hard to believe that he and Anastasia are part of the same species, let alone the same family. Of course he’s only three weeks old, so he hasn’t demonstrated that much personality yet, but so far, taking care of him is so different from caring from Anastasia that I can’t even compare the two.

I’ve written before about my experience of caring for a newborn when Anastasia was little, and I think I summed it up pretty well then. I didn’t even use the bathroom till somebody else was there to hold her until she was at least a month old. And even though I knew she was a high-needs baby, I honestly thought that my experience of never being able to set her down without causing desperate screaming was pretty much normal for a young baby. I thought that was just how babies are.

Turns out it’s just how Anastasia was.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: part of the reason why Teddy is so much easier is because I’m more experienced and better at parenting. While this may be a slight factor–a very small one–let me assure you: it’s not the main reason. Trust me on this. Sure, I know more techniques now for soothing a baby or getting a baby to sleep than I did when Anastasia was born (because I had to learn every technique in the book and then some!), but honestly, I haven’t had to use most of them. Teddy is just an easy baby.

I had no idea this kind of baby even existed. I thought people were lying when they told me they could set their baby down and it wouldn’t cry.

So to all my friends who told me that when Anastasia was little: I’m sorry for thinking you were lying. I believe you now.

Sort of. Except that I can still hardly believe it myself.

So, for those other parents of high-needs babies who don’t believe it, here’s what it’s like to breastfeed a laid-back newborn. In case you ever dare to have more children, and you’re lucky enough to have one that isn’t high-needs, here’s what it can look like. Maybe.

1. It’s morning. You wake up because baby is wiggling and grunting a little. Not crying. Just grunting. Very cute. Open your eyes and see that baby is rooting. Put boob in baby’s mouth without getting up, because you’re cosleeping and this baby has an amazing perfect latch and could nurse lying down from the day he was born (it took Anastasia several months to learn to do that). He latches on happily and nurses. You doze.

2. After a few minutes, realize that he is still wiggling and grunting, and now he’s farting. Clearly he needs to poop. You don’t feel like sitting up, so you mumble to him that he can poop in his diaper and you’ll change it in a minute. He continues to fart noisily. After a few minutes, he relaxes, so you decide that he’s probably done pooping. Sit up so you can change him.

3. Take his diaper off and discover that not only has he not pooped yet, but his diaper is dry. Because he is a happy EC baby and waits for you to take his diaper off. He’s cool like that. Hold him over the potty. He poops and pees. (No, this doesn’t happen all the time–if it did, I wouldn’t use a diaper at all. But it did happen twice last night. I tried to wait till he had pooped in his diaper, and he waited till I took it off to go.)

3. Wipe baby’s bum, replace clean diaper, lie back down, and re-latch. He goes back to sleep. After five minutes, he unlatches. And stays asleep. Because unlike a high-needs baby, he does not require a nipple in his mouth at all times in order to sleep. Who knew?

4. Decide to get up. Roll away from baby and get out of bed. Shockingly, this movement does not disturb him. At all. Because he likes to sleep. He stays asleep.

5. Pee, brush teeth, and get dressed. Maybe even take a shower. It’s possible to take a shower when your baby is under a month old?!? Yes, my friends, it’s possible. I did it this morning. He did wake up at the very end of my shower and cry a little, but only for about a minute. And then I nursed him for five minutes and he went back to sleep.

6. Decide to leave baby in bed while you get breakfast. Because, you know, he’s happy, so why disturb him? Go into the kitchen (take note: you are now in a different room from your baby, and your baby is not crying! He is happily sleeping without you! He does not have a magic radar that operates even while in the deepest sleep that tells him to wake up and scream whenever you are more than three feet away from him!) and make yourself cereal and coffee. Sit down on the couch and eat in a leisurely fashion while reading your Facebook newsfeed. Start writing a blog post.

7. Baby cries. He’s awake! Dash into the bedroom. Take off his diaper, which is wet. Offer the potty, and he pees again. Dress him again (in underwear this time) and put him in the sling. Nurse him. He goes back to sleep.

8. After a few minutes, he unlatches himself. You work on your blog post while wearing him. He sleeps happily for 90 minutes.

9. Around lunchtime he wakes, pees and poops in potty, and stays awake happily looking around the room for about 45 minutes. Then he cries a little, and you pee him in the potty again. Then you put him back in the sling and nurse him, and he goes back to sleep.

10. Sometime in the afternoon, you swaddle him and put him back in bed. And he sleeps by himself again. For two hours. Every thirty minutes, sneak into the bedroom to make sure he’s still breathing. He is.

11. Around dinnertime, he wakes and is happily alert for about 45 minutes. When he starts to look sleepy, you put on a nighttime diaper, swaddle him again, and lie down with him in bed. He nurses, and in 15 minutes he is asleep. Unlatch him and roll away, and he stays asleep. For three hours this time. You have the whole evening to relax. But you still sneak back into the bedroom every thirty minutes to make sure he’s still breathing.

12. Go to bed. He wakes, nurses, and goes back to sleep. Three or four hours later, he wakes again to poop, nurse, and go back to sleep.

And that’s what my days look like right now.

I’m actually getting more sleep with a newborn than I got when Anastasia was two.

Now, I realize that he may not always be like this. Parenting Teddy will have its own unique challenges, and I’ll have to learn a whole new set of techniques and tricks for the difficult things he does. Which will probably be things that Anastasia never dreamed of doing. And I guess that’s why second babies make fools of Mama: you think you know how to handle the problems that come up with kids, and then your second kid brings a whole new set of problems and behaviors that your first never prepared you to deal with. And all the tricks you learned from your first kid that made you feel like you knew what you were doing become useless for your second.

However. There is one thing I’ve learned already from my second round of parenting. And I knew this, and I’ve written about it before, but Teddy is making it so much more obvious to me, and I think it bears repeating. Often. So I’ll say it again:

Good parenting means parenting the child, not following a parenting style. So many moms I know feel judged because their parenting doesn’t fit a particular “style.” They’re too mainstream for their attachment parenting friends and too crunchy for their mainstream friends. But–and I only just figured this out–I’m pretty sure that the attachment parenting “rules” were developed in response to a high-needs baby. Babies like that really do need you to hold them 24/7 and nurse them all the time and be with them constantly. AP was invented to give parents permission to do all that stuff for babies who need it. If your baby doesn’t need it, then you don’t have to do all that stuff. Really. You don’t. It doesn’t make you any less responsive of a parent if you’re responding to what your baby needs. I held or wore Anastasia every minute of every day and night for a year. Because she screamed if I put her down. Teddy is less than a month old, and he’s regularly sleeping for several hours by himself. But I’m still the same parent. I’m not any less responsive to him than I was to her. I am every bit as much of an “attached parent” to him as I was to her. I’m doing my best to meet his needs every minute of every day, just like I did for her. He just needs less.

If your baby is happy and healthy, and everyone else in your family (including you) is too, then you’re doing it right.

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diaper rash? with cloth diapers and elimination communication? WHAT?!

diaper rash? with cloth diapers and elimination communication? WHAT?!

Teddy is two weeks old today, and he has a diaper rash.

And I don’t mean to sound like a high-maintenance over-worried first-time mom or anything, but to me, this is a disaster of massive proportions.

There are several reasons. One, Anastasia never had a diaper rash. Not once. She did get a mild rash when she was about three months old, but at that point I was using diapers rarely enough that I knew it wasn’t caused by diapers. And it wasn’t–it was caused by me eating dairy. I took dairy out of my diet, and she never had another rash. Ever.

Second, even though I haven’t kept Teddy diaper-free all the time, he has had a lot of diaper-free time. A lot more than Anastasia had had at this age, too–I didn’t even start EC with her till she was two weeks old. Teddy has been peeing and pooping in the potty since the day he was born, and even though he also was wearing diapers pretty much all the time for the first ten days or so, I almost never left him in a wet diaper. And absolutely never in a dirty diaper. I don’t use any chemical wipes on him (just cloth wipes and plain water), and even when he’s diapered, it’s often just a cotton diaper with no cover. Or with a breathable wool cover. There is absolutely no reason why this baby should have a rash of any kind.

But a couple of days ago I noticed some redness on his bum. Horrified, I decided to step up my EC a notch and kept him diaperless for most of two days (yesterday and the day before), except for two periods when we left the house for a couple of hours. He did great with EC while diaper-free–only a handful of pee misses, and no poop misses!–but the rash was still there. And yesterday, when I took him for his first doctor’s visit, the doctor thought it might be yeast.


If I’d been horrified by any rash, you can only imagine how upset I was when she said the y-word. Again, I realize that yeast is pretty common. But for a cloth diapering, breastfeeding mom, it’s a scary possibility. Not only because a yeast infection can cause breastfeeding problems, but also because it gets into your cloth diapers. And it’s almost impossible to get yeast out of cloth diapers.

The doctor gave me a prescription for Nystatin cream (eek!), but she told me I didn’t have to use it right away. I could keep giving him lots of air time first and see if that helped. But two days of it hadn’t helped. And Nystatin cream, like most barrier creams, is not safe for cloth diapers. And seeing as I’ve survived four years of motherhood without buying a single disposable diaper, I can’t imagine starting now. Mostly because I really hate the smell of disposable diapers.

But after I got home and recovered from the shock, I realized I had another option.

I also thought of something else that could be causing the rash.

Here’s the thing. I’ve always believed that when it comes to EC, sleep trumps potty. When Anastasia was a newborn, she rarely slept more than two hours at a time, and every time she woke, she pooped. So I changed her a lot at night.

Teddy, however, sleeps all the time. And although he usually signals when he needs to poop, he doesn’t mind sleeping with a wet diaper. So I don’t always know when he’s wet. And he frequently sleeps four-hour stretches at night. So I’ve gone long stretches at night without changing him. When he’s wearing nothing but a plain cotton diaper that doesn’t wick moisture away at all. And no barrier cream. Because Anastasia never needed barrier cream, so I figured he wouldn’t either.

And twelve hours of daytime diaperless time may not make up for eight hours in a wet diaper at night.

But this problem, fortunately, is easy to fix.

So last night, I pulled out the big guns. The last-ditch effort. I used gDiapers.

I am not a fan of hybrid diapers, and the brief time when I tried gDiapers with Anastasia (about half a day) involved multiple leaks and a couple of clogged toilets. And when I first realized that the problem was probably Teddy’s long nighttime sleep stretches, my first thought was to run to Target and get some California baby cream or something else that I could use with cloth. But Teddy was fussy and tired, and leaving the house at 9 pm last night didn’t seem like a good idea, and then I remembered that I had some Desitin cream.

I hate Desitin. I would never have bought it. It’s smelly and chemical-y and not safe for cloth diapers. My mom bought it when Anastasia was an infant and had the dairy-caused rash. I don’t think I ever used it for Anastasia. But last night, I decided it was worth it to try for one night to see if it helped. And luckily, a friend had given me an extra small gDiaper cover and half a box of disposable gDiaper inserts. I had planned to give them away, but last night I put one on and slathered the rash in Desitin.

Sure enough, this morning it was less red.

Also, the gDiaper leaked.

But I had prepared for that with a prefold under Teddy’s bum. And it was worth it. Today I’ll go and get some safe-for-cloth-diapers barrier cream, and tonight I’ll try a cloth method that includes a wicking layer–maybe a Fuzzi Bunz pocket (if I can get the “one-size” small enough; most one size diaper are pretty bulky on newborns) or a Lil Joey Rumparooz.

Meanwhile, I’ll take some probiotics, just to be safe, and I’ll add a few drops of tea tree oil to my cloth diaper laundry.

And I will remain calm. Rash is not the end of the world.

And too much sleep is a good problem to have!

Update: I’ve switched to using pocket diapers (he’s already big enough for my one-size Fuzzi Bunz!) at night, and I’m using California Baby cream. In two days, the rash was completely gone. 

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sleeping through the night–or not

sleeping through the night–or not

My daughter has always had trouble sleeping. As a baby, she never slept anywhere but on my breast–if I tried to unlatch her, no matter how deeply asleep she was, she would immediately wake up. And then cry for an hour or more, unable to get back to sleep. I learned pretty quickly that it was better to let her stay on.

The first time I ever got her to stay asleep somewhere other than me, she was six months old. I swaddled her and somehow managed to get a pacifier into her mouth before I put her in an electronic swing. She slept for about an hour. It was one of the most exciting moments of my parenting up till that point. But it never worked again.

A few months later, a friend lent me the No-Cry Sleep Solution. I started using the techniques in it, and by the time she turned a year old, I was able to nurse her to sleep in bed next to me, unlatch her, and carefully roll away without waking her. Sometimes she would still get a decent nap. Sometimes she wouldn’t.

But she never slept through the night. Never. She never even slept five hours straight.

It was a long road to finally get her to where she was getting the sleep that she needed it–not to mention letting us get the sleep we need. I have a guest post that’s going to be posted soon on the Natural Parents Network telling the full story, so I won’t write it all here now. Suffice it to say that it involved therapy and supplements as well as some behavioral tricks, and even with all that it was not easy. But when we finally got there, it was by a gentle path, with no crying or coercion involved. And it was amazing. It changed our lives.

For the past three years, every night involved hours of nursing, rocking, storytelling, and snuggling. We never knew if she was going to go to sleep by 9:00 pm or not until 11:00 or midnight. We never knew if she was going to sleep for three hours or for forty-five minutes. We never knew if when she woke again she was going to go back to sleep or just stay up all night until morning. The one thing we knew for sure was that we were all tired, and we didn’t see that changing anytime soon.

But for the past five months, every night we go through a brief, predictable bedtime routine that takes about fifteen minutes. It finishes before 8 pm (after the time change it was 7 pm!), and then we turn out her light and walk away. And we don’t see her again until morning. She falls asleep on her own, in her own room, and sleeps for twelve hours straight. Best of all, in the morning she’s happy. She comes into our room, cheerful and energetic, and jumps in bed with us to wake us up. She’s excited and eager to start the day. It’s beautiful.

Oh, and did I mention that we get free evenings when we get to act like adults? It’s no coincidence that I started this blog six months ago. It was the first time in three years that I had free time.

But in the past few weeks, our evenings have been getting progressively more difficult. Instead of falling asleep peacefully at the usual time, she’s been getting up and coming out of her room, asking for mama milk or another story or just insisting that she’s not sleepy. Sometimes these curtain calls last till 10 or later. And while I’d love to pretend that it would be okay to just move her bedtime earlier, that maybe she doesn’t need quite as much sleep as other kids, I know that’s not true. When she gets twelve hours of sleep, she’s happy. When she doesn’t, she’s irritable and tired. Even if I didn’t need the evening, she still needs the sleep.

So lately we’ve been helping more with bedtime again. A few nights ago, when my mom was babysitting, she rocked her in her arms until she was sleepy. Last night she and my husband fell asleep together in her bed while he was telling her stories. Tonight she came out and asked for mama milk, so I nursed her for a few minutes and then lay with her until she was asleep.

And even though we’ve been doing these things for years, it’s still hard to do them. It’s even harder to go back to doing them after thinking we were finally able to give them up. Every time I lie down in bed with her or let her add one piece to her bedtime routine, I hear a hundred voices in my head from all the books, articles, and forums I’ve read: Don’t go back. Be firm. Keep the routine consistent. She has to learn to sleep alone.

But then I remember that she has a lot of reasons to be stressed right now. She’s about to become a big sister. She has no idea what to expect, but she knows it’s going to be the biggest change she’s ever experienced in her life. It’s going to affect her relationship with me and with her daddy in ways she can’t anticipate, and she’s scared. She needs help. She needs comfort. She needs to know that we’re still here for her, that we will always be here for her, even after another member joins our family.

Maybe after the baby comes, she’ll go back to the easier bedtime. Maybe not. I can’t control or predict that. And I can’t worry about it before it happens. I’d like to freak out and say that I can’t keep doing this lengthy bedtime routine (even though it’s still much shorter than any bedtime routine we had for most of her life) when I have a newborn to take care of as well. I’d like to say that she just has to suck it up and figure it out now. But you know what? I can deal with it now. And I don’t know what I’ll be able to do after the baby comes. Maybe the baby will sleep whenever it’s tired, without needing much help from me; maybe I’ll be able to lay it down in bed and then go help Anastasia sleep. And if not, then we’ll have friends and family around to help, at least for the first few weeks. And we aren’t all going to crumple into dust if we don’t get enough sleep. The world isn’t going to end. We’ll survive.

And really, no matter what happens, it won’t last forever. No matter how much it feels like it will. I never thought I’d say this, but viewed through the past five months of sufficient sleep, even three years of miserable sleep deprivation doesn’t look like forever anymore. At the time, I thought I could do anything if I could just get one decent night of sleep. Now I’ve had five months’ worth. That should last me for a little while.

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to sleep or to potty? that is the question

to sleep or to potty? that is the question

Sleep or pee? No, I’m not talking about those midnight pregnancy awakenings (that’s a relief, right? I’m sure you’re tired of all this pregnancy TMI). No, I’m talking about my three-year-old daughter. Let her sleep or wake her to potty? That’s my parenting dilemma this week.

I feel like I should offer a couple of disclaimers here. First, if you’re not familiar with elimination communication, you should know that most babies who are EC’d from birth are actually able to stay dry all night at a much younger age than three. In fact, babies who are EC’d full-time at night often start staying dry all night (sometimes with a midnight potty break, but sometimes without it) before they are a year old. So it’s not totally crazy for me to think my daughter could go all night without peeing.

On the other hand, for children who are conventionally potty trained, peeing in sleep is normal until around age five or six. So if your four year old is still wearing diapers at night, he’s totally normal; don’t worry about it.

Which leads to the logical question: if my daughter sometimes pees on the bed, then why am I not still using diapers at night?

Simple answer? Because I don’t have any of these. (Hint to any relatives wondering what to get for the new baby.) When my daughter was an infant, I ran across several EC’ing families who stated that “sleep trumps potty” when it comes to nighttime decisions. For tired mamas and newborn babies, sleeping is more important than pottying. Some babies sleep better after pottying (you take them once and then they’ll sleep for four hours instead of two), so those families practice EC at night. Other babies will pee in a diaper and go back to sleep without waking mama, so those families don’t do EC at night. My daughter woke every three hours no matter what I did, but EC’ing required sitting up and nursing didn’t, so I used diapers at night.

Then around age two, my daughter started leaking through all her nighttime diapers. Rather than buy new diapers (which just seemed like a waste of money at that stage; she’d been out of daytime diapers for a year!), I decided to start nighttime EC. At that point I was already occasionally pottying her at night, and she was staying dry through the night about three out of four nights. And every time she did pee, it got all over the sheets anyway, so I figured it would be just as easy to get rid of diapers as not.

After a few months, I figured out that if I took her potty at least once during the night–usually around midnight–then she would stay dry all night. She was still waking every three hours to nurse, so adding potty to one of the nighttime wake-ups wasn’t that big of a deal.

But then, when she was three and a half, we finally figured out that she was waking so much at night for physiological reasons. After a week of taking a (liquid) magnesium supplement every night at bedtime, she went from waking every three hours to sleeping all night. Really all night. Like ten to twelve hours. I was in heaven.

But she also started peeing on the bed.

Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it: not only is she sleeping twelve straight hours, which is longer than she’s ever stayed in bed on a regular basis in her life, but she’s also taking a liquid supplement right before bed.

My first thought was to limit liquids in the evening, so I started giving her the supplement at dinner instead of at bedtime. That helped. But she was still peeing on the bed at least one night out of three.

So I started taking her potty during the night again. Since she now goes to bed earlier than I do (which is a miracle in itself!), I figured I could take her before I went to bed without disrupting my own sleep. I noticed that she usually stirs a little and calls out around 11 or midnight and then puts herself back to sleep. But I started taking that as my signal to go in and potty her in the little potty in her room, and it worked great. She would pee without ever waking up (there are few things cuter than a three year old leaning on your shoulder, eyes still closed, peeing on the potty in her sleep!), and I’d put her back in bed and she’d sleep soundly all night. Perfect solution, right?

Except that recently I’ve been wanting to go to bed earlier, and I found myself getting stressed about sitting up waiting for her to stir so I could go potty her while she was in a light sleep. So the other night I did something I’ve never done before. Instead of waiting for her to call for me, I went in when I was ready to go to bed. She was in a deep sleep, but I picked her up and put her on the potty. She peed without waking or protesting at all, and then I put her back in bed and she went straight back to sleep. Which was awesome. But ever since I’ve been worrying about it. Did I disrupt her sleep patterns by taking her when she was in a deep sleep? Did she sleep poorly the rest of the night? She seemed kind of tired the next day, but that could have been my guilty imagination.

I know I’m overthinking this, but if you had any idea how awful her sleep has been for the past three years–and how challenging all of our lives were as a result of her poor sleep–then you’d understand how scary it is for me to do anything that might disrupt her sleep at all. It’s practically sacrilege. On the other hand, peeing on the bed disrupts her sleep (and mine!) a lot more. But then again, a lot of nights (like last night, when I was too tired to take her potty before bed), she sleeps all night and stays dry. So maybe if I left her alone, she would just sleep all night.

I do think that pretty soon she’ll be able to take herself at night–she’s just not quite aware enough yet to take herself when she’s half-asleep. In a year or two, this dilemma, like so many other past parenting dilemmas, will be a thing of the past. In the meantime, I’ll remember my mantra: sleep trumps potty. Right now sleep better after I’ve pottied her, because I know she’s not going to wake wet and crying at 3 am. She sleeps better after pottying on nights when she would have peed on the bed…but on nights when she would otherwise have slept all night, then pottying might make her sleep worse.

So whose sleep trumps potty? I’ll let you guess.

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alternatives to cribs

alternatives to cribs

With the latest crib safety standards that came into effect this summer, a lot of used cribs are being taken off the market. All drop-side cribs are now considered unsafe, and there are a lot of other new standards as well. If you bought a crib before June 28, 2011, chances are good that it doesn’t comply with the new safety standards. So much for reusing and recycling. If you want your baby to sleep in a crib that complies with current safety standards, you pretty much have to buy a new one.

And you can’t even resell your old one to offset the cost.

Fortunately, cribs are actually a very recent invention in human history. They are not the only place where babies can sleep safely, and they’re certainly not the most environmentally-friendly place for babies to sleep, either. There are a lot of places where your baby can sleep that don’t require you buying a brand-new piece of expensive furniture.

1. Cosleeping. You’ve probably heard plenty of criticism of cosleeping–it’s hard not to. Plenty of people (including experts) will tell you that cosleeping will kill your baby. But the reality is that a lot more babies die from SIDS (which, frighteningly, used to be called crib death) than while cosleeping. Practiced safely, cosleeping has a lot of benefits. It promotes breastfeeding, usually means better sleep for everyone, and helps regulate your newborn’s temperature and breathing. It’s usually least safe in families who do it as a reaction to poor sleep instead of planning intentionally to do it. So even if you don’t plan to cosleep, it’s a good idea to know the cosleeping safety guidelines and to have your room and bed ready if you find yourself lying down with your baby out of desperation in the middle of the night.

If you’re planning to cosleep, I recommend getting rid of your bed frame and just sleeping on a mattress on the floor. And spend the money you saved by not buying a crib or a bed frame on a nice organic latex or foam mattress. Ours has spoiled me for any other bed.

2. Baby Hammock. The Amby hammock was recalled a couple of years ago, resulting in a furor of concern about baby hammock safety. However, hundreds of crib recalls over the years haven’t caused us as a society to ditch cribs, and one hammock recall shouldn’t cause us to ditch hammocks. (Also, Amby did manufacture a replacement part to correct the defect, so if you get one, be sure you get the additional part.) Many babies love hammocks because the cradle position, combined with the rocking and bouncing of a hammock, mimics their experience in the womb. Hammocks use a lot fewer materials and resources than cribs–mostly fabric (often organic cotton) and some metal for the frame. Like cosleeping, hammocks are a common way for babies to sleep in many parts of the world and have been for generations. Personally, I would hesitate to put a newborn in a hammock (but I wouldn’t let a newborn sleep anywhere but right next to me, where I can feel that she’s breathing!). But I used one with my daughter from about six months on (although she only liked it for naps).

3. Floor bed. Baby proof the room, and your baby can sleep on a mattress on the floor. You’ll never have to worry about falling off–even an infant won’t be damaged by rolling off a mattress that’s inches thick–and you’ll never have to worry about transitioning to a “big kid” bed, either. Again, you’re using a lot fewer resources and materials than an entire crib. If you’re using this method for a very young baby, I recommend using a crib mattress (again, spend the money you saved by avoiding the furniture purchase and get a nice organic latex one!). With a crib mattress, you know it’s firm enough to meet the safety standards for infants. They’re also thinner than regular mattresses, so once your baby starts rolling, there’s even less distance to the floor. Floor beds are very common in many parts of the world; they were also the sleeping arrangement recommended by Maria Montessori. A floor bed can actually help promote independence, since the baby can explore his room before bedtime and after he wakes without having to cry to get out of his bed. My daughter moved from cosleeping (in our mattress on the floor) to a floor bed in her own room when she turned three. I will say, though, that when we travel she does have a tendency to roll off of higher beds. Probably because her preferred sleeping spot at home is in the crack between the mattress and the wall. She’s never been injured by it (she is three, after all), but I always put pillows on the floor next to her bed when we travel, just in case. When she was littler, we did have quite a few instances when I insisted on pulling the hotel mattress off the frame and putting it on the floor. Let me just say that’s a total pain. With the next baby, I’ll bring a crib mattress. Or heck, a large, flat, firm pillow on the floor (like the ones I have for my deck chairs) would probably work just fine!

4. Pack and Play. These are only recommended as a temporary sleeping arrangement, I think because the bottom isn’t really firm enough for a baby to sleep on comfortably. But I do know a lot of people who use them. They’re a lot cheaper than cribs, and they don’t get as many recalls. But they’re usually made of mostly plastic–not the most organic alternative. Personally, I’ve never owned one, and I don’t see much advantage of using one over a crib. Probably just too mainstream for my hippie self.

5. DIY Beds. Is it unsafe to make something from scratch for your baby to sleep in? It depends. If you’re talking about a crib, then yes, absolutely. But if you’re talking about, say, a floor bed, then no. My sister, for example, slept in a cardboard box on the floor as an infant. My grandmother was horrified. But my sister preferred it–even after my grandmother bought a cradle for her, she refused to sleep anywhere else for months. She loved to snuggle into the corner of the box. And hey, there are no slats, nothing to fall out of, no soft bumpers: very little pieces to make it unsafe. Sure, she looked like a puppy, but her box was probably a lot safer than many cribs. Dresser drawers, pulled out of the dresser and placed on the floor with some blankets as liners, were once a common place for babies to sleep. And a friend of mine made a soft fabric basket for me to use like a Moses basket for cosleeping when my daughter was little. Like the Amby, I used it more for naps than cosleeping, but my daughter still likes to curl up in it sometimes (and it’s nice for storing toys, too).

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