Maybe it’s the hormones, but nothing inspires such flame-throwing debate like politics, religion, and babies. Not sure how hormones might affect the first two, but they get blamed for everything else, so why not? There are as many opinions about swaddling as there are about any other parenting topic, and yet, aside from troll-infested message boards, this topic seems to be absent from most heated parenting debates.
Jack is four months old, and until this week, we swaddled him whenever we sent him packing for Nod. He slept fine, teething and wet diapers notwithstanding. As an experiment, I wanted to see how he’d sleep with full mobility. The short answer — he didn’t.
He slept alright for the first few hours at night when his little baby batteries were well and truly depleted. But naps… they basically didn’t happen. He’d work himself into a frenzy and pass out only when exhaustion took over. Less than half an hour later, his woeful, piteous cries would shriek forth from his room. Translated roughly from baby, they would mean, “I can’t be trusted to control my own appendages!”
So, after a few ugly nights reminiscent of his first few weeks*, I gave in today and swaddled him for his afternoon nap. He slept for two hours. I don’t plan to make this a habit, but man, it was nice to have a little bit of time when he wasn’t screaming.
Ok, so what’s the debate? The American Academy of Pediatrics states that swaddling should basically be stopped around two months of age, or whenever the child begins to roll over, due to the increased risk of suffocation. Jack has finally come close to mastering rolling over, hence my experiment and desire to phase out swaddling. I’d been putting it off as long as possible, and since Jack was a little late to the rolling over table, I didn’t fret too much. But, he’s there now, so down this path we go. We’ll be trading our sleep (and his) for his safety. I hope it doesn’t go on for too long, because the less sleep we get, the less safe he’ll be. Jen handed him to me around 6:00 am today after momentarily considering infanticide. By 2:00 pm today, I had the same thoughts and swaddled him since Jen couldn’t take him while she was working. He slept and survived, so no harm done, but he and we both have to get broken of the habit.
In other news, he’s slowly gaining some command of his limbs, and some awareness of the various things at the ends of them. He discovered his feet a couple of days ago. He grabbed one more or less by accident, but what a happy accident it was for him! Now, there are Feet! Or, more properly for his little baby brain, there’s a foot, and then it moves to the other leg — there are Foot! Anyway, if his hand can, in any way, reach his foot, he’ll grab it and surrender it for nothing less than milk.
Babies are more cartilage than bone. This is probably not true, but to observe my youngest son putting Mister Fantastic to shame, it’s the only conclusion that makes sense. Even Joshua, just three+ years Jack’s elder, and more bendy and pliable than Gumby, cannot contort himself into the twisting, Slinky-for-a-spine positions Jack manages to discover when left to his own devices.
All of this is to say that, of course, Jack cannot sleep when his arms can move about. He can’t sleep because his arms move about independent of any conscious thoughts he has about them (and there aren’t a lot of those). He need binding. He wants to be bound. I watched him hit himself in the face and wake up, justifiably, upset. His clumsy movements dislodge his pacifier and his bottle with persistent zeal, and the result is the same — upset. All babies have Alien Hand Syndrome. Except, really, it’s Alien Body Syndrome.
*Look for a guest blogger here soon — the Mombie!