Posted in Infant, Parenting

Ditching the Paci and Swaddle: “Cold Turkey” Style!

It is time.

Today is the day.

Batten down the hatches!

Today, we get rid of the pacifier AND the swaddle. (Today, being three days ago when I started writing this post, by the way)

Bear with me folks.  This ain’t for the faint of heart.

Think I’m crazy?  Stick with me as I make my case.

Exhibit A : The Pacifier

It may well look inoffensive and all with its small size and cute patterns, but in our household this little thing has become the weapon of all weapons in my son’s fight against sleep (mine, not his).  You see, around here, these nipple replacements have become what are known as ‘props’.

In the world of parenting, a prop is defined as an action or object that a baby is dependent upon to fall asleep AND cannot control.  For instance, for a baby who can only fall asleep in his swing, the swing would be a prop because he doesn’t know how to fall asleep any other way and he is unable to control the swing.  In the case of my son, the pacifier had become a prop because though he needed to comfort suck in order to fall asleep, the only way he was able to do that was with a pacifier.  And since he was unable to put the pacifier back in when it fell out or he pulled it out accidentally, it had become a prop as either his father or myself (or any other caregiver for that matter) had to stick the thing (back) in.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know of my initial internal battle with regards to introducing the pacifier.  Then, once it became a problem, you were able to read about my use of Pantley’s gentle removal as described in her book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.  To be fair, the no-cry method actually did work in reducing night wakings (NW) due to my son waking up without the pacifier in his mouth and he went from 15 NW to 3 in a manner of days.  However, he still needed someone to initially stick the pacifier in and then stay with him to pull it out before he fell asleep and so, he still wasn’t learning to fall asleep on his own.  There was also the fact that we had only managed to use the gentle removal for bedtime sleep because using it for naps cut into his daytime sleep too much.

In sum, the paci had to go.  But this little thing was not my only problem.

Exhibit B: The Swaddle

Swaddling is an art that every parent should learn.  In the weeks following birth, swaddling really helps in providing a feeling of security in a newborn by allowing them to feel the snugness they felt in the womb as well as containing their limbs when the moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex) kicks in while they sleep.  Now swaddling really saved us when Charles was about 6 weeks old.  But as time went by, it too became a prop.  When he outgrew his receiving blankets, I bought a “swaddle me” blanket (and was in awe over the awesomeness of the velcro).  When he outgrew that, I started using a bedsheet and experimented with various swaddling techniques.  The problem is that as time went by, he managed to break out of every swaddle, no matter how tight.  I would change my way of swaddling and he would do great for a couple of days – until he worked out how to break out of the new method.  And so, not only was I getting up at night (and going in during early wakings from naps) to replug the pacifier, I was also having to reswaddle.  This is generally a surefire sign that it is time to wean off the swaddle.

Then, my son started to figure out that he could probably roll – both ways.  Though he’s not quite there yet, I know it’s just a matter of time.  Once a baby is able to roll from back to tummy, it becomes dangerous to swaddle, because they could end up on their tummy and not be able to clear their face from the mattress.  Not good!  Just the thought of this happening got me worked up enough to not allow me to sleep peacefully because I started becoming worried that he would figure out how to roll when he was sleeping.  (Perhaps I shouldn’t have worried, but I did and since I already have problems with insomnia, I figured I would remove one of the aspects that could cause my hyperactive brain to go into overdrive).

And so, the swaddle had to go.

Oh but wait a minute!  I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t just ditch the swaddle but keep the pacifier, right?  I mean, it sounds so cruel to get rid of both at the same time AND do it cold turkey (I know, I know, I should change my blog to “meanie mommy” right?).  But you see, what you don’t know is that when my son is not swaddled, or when my son is partially swaddled (because we actually DID try to wean from the swaddle progressively) he grabs on to the ring of his pacifier and pulls it out of his mouth and then throws it because he’s unable to stick it back in.  Those of you who know what it’s like to frantically search for the pacifier that was thrown on the ground in a pitch dark room in the middle of the night while trying to calm down your screaming baby know why the pacifier had to go as well.

Am I sounding defensive?  Perhaps I am.  But I know that despite the fact that I took away my son’s two comfort items-that-had-become-props and have done it cold turkey I am still a good mom.  My son is not a “poor baby” because mommy took his pacifier away.  My son is developmentally ready to learn the skills necessary to help him SELF-soothe.  ‘Tis the first step in his independence which, ultimately is the goal of each parent, right?  Allowing their children to develop the skills to become independent.

The method

So, do you want to know how I’m going about this cold turkey weaning?  Of course you do!  I’m using Tracy Hogg’s Pick Up Put Down (PUPD) method as described in her last book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.  Below is an “in the nutshell” description of the method for a baby in the 4-6 month age range.

Step 1: You put your baby down without his props after a proper wind-down routine.

Step 2: When he starts to cry, you try to soothe him from his crib by speaking to him in a calm and reassuring manner and by using any other appropriate method (I usually rub his tummy or tap on his thigh).

Step 3: If and when his cry becomes distressed, you pick him up and hold him upright as though you were burping him.  You don’t jiggle around, just stand there and continue to reassure him with words and touch (for instance, rubbing his back).

Step 4: You put your baby back down in his crib:

-As soon as he calms down, or;

-After 2-3 minutes, or;

-If he fights you (arches his back, burrows his head…).

Rinse and repeat until your baby is asleep.

Tips:

– It’s important to try to soothe from the crib first.  Eventually, you’ll want to get yourself out of sight and reassure only with your voice.
– If your baby starts to cry on the way back down to his crib, you still put him all the way down on in his crib and try to soothe from there before picking him back up.
– If your baby still isn’t asleep after 40 minutes, take him out of the room for a change of scenery for 5-10 minutes and try again for another 40 minutes after that.
– Start with the first nap of the day so that you baby will have had some practice before bedtime.
– GET SOME SUPPORT!  I made sure my partner was on board with me before starting this.  We are doing it together.  Support is crucial.  To give you an idea, just imagine how hard it is going to be, how loudly your baby is going to cry, how long it will take before your baby finally falls asleep the first few times and tell yourself it is going to be worse than what you can imagine.  To be honest, I could NOT have done this without support from both my partner and the wonderful ladies from the PUPD board at the baby whisperer website.
– Know that there will be a regression at about 8 days when your baby will try for one last time (can last a couple of days) to go back to the old ways.

Progress (the word we all want to hear)!

We are on day 4 right now.  The first time we tried this method, it took 1.5h of continued crying, soothing and PUPD before my son fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion and he only slept for 25 minutes.  This morning, he was down for his nap in about 10 minutes and I only had to soothe him with my voice.  I was also able to extend his nap (after a diaper/bed sheet/pyjama change because he was very wet after I failed to put the thing on properly) for the first time in four days!

Key points

A couple of key points that stuck out for me while reading Hogg’s book.  This (and progress, and support) is what is allowing me to keep on going:

  • Start as you mean to go – don’t start this method if you’re not 100% committed to seeing it through.  Give it about 2 weeks.  You don’t want to go back to your old ways after starting this on account of it being too hard.  It’s not fair to put your baby through so much crying (even despite the fact that you’re there to reassure him) for nothing.

I rest my case.

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