Monday, 17 May 2010

Prams, dummies and detachment

A baby you can put down to sleep is a marvellous thing. But strangely, over the last few weeks I've found myself missing those early weeks when the only place Rosie wanted to be was in my (or Theo's) arms or at my breast. Despite having a few precious hours to myself to read, write, do a little housework or grab some sleep, I felt a little bereft. I fully accept that the main function of a parent is to ultimately teach your child to be an independent being who can sally forth into the world brimming with confidence and (hopefully) bonhomie. But under four months of age is a bit early for that sort of thing.

Facing a plane journey back to the UK made me realise why I was feeling this way. We were stressing because it wouldn't be practical to take our pram along. The stress was because it had become the one sure way of calming Rosie if she was "going postal" and a magical way of swiftly rocking her into sleep. How the hell would we manage without it? Sometimes in the evening she gets so agitated that she won't even take a calming feed as a prelude to bedtime. Pram rocking had become the only way to soothe her.

That went hand in hand with the dummy. I gave her one after realising she loved to suck for hours on end, but my nipples just weren't up to the job without doing inconvenient things like bleeding. But swiftly Rosie got hooked, until going off to sleep without her mouth being plugged with a silicone or latex approximation of a human teat was out of the question. Not such a problem, perhaps - except the damn thing would inevitably tumble out of her mouth as she dozed off, immediately waking her up again - which in turn would awaken ME as she mouthed frantically for the lost pacifier, whimpering loudly.

I decided I would have to wean Rosie from her dependence on the pram as a soother and the dummy as a necessary sleep aid.
In the end, the former was surprisingly easy. With the help of Dr Harvey Karp, I tried the 5S calming technique on Rosie - swaddling her, holding her on her side, shushing manically and loudly in her ear while energetically rocking her. After a few tries I have to say it now works like a dream and I can transform Rosie from a scrunch-faced, inconsolable screamer into a relaxed and dozy baby inside a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, the 5th S stands for sucking, so the dummy comes back into play if shushing and rocking doesn't complete the job. But she doesn't seem to mind it being removed once she's quiet and sleepy.

Operation Remove Dummy has had its successes, but it's still too useful a calming tool to abandon entirely. However, strategic removal of the damned thing (known as "The Dreaded" in our household) shortly after Rosie's dropped off seems to be helping the situation and she seems to be able to settle to sleep without always having The Dreaded stuffed in her mouth. I've taken to feeding her more often as a way of getting her back to sleep and overnight, it's much more effective than offering the dummy. Tiring for me, yes - she's currently waking up about every two hours. But at least she tends to go straight back to sleep afterward instead of wailing for The D.

But the main benefit of all that is I feel I've got my cuddly baby back. I actually prefer rocking Rosie to sleep in my arms or feeling her drift off at my breast to manically pushing the pram back and forth or shoving a piece of latex in her mouth. Once again I can comfort and calm our daughter, instead of relying on other pieces of machinery to intercede. Today she slept on my lap for almost an hour as I sat on the sofa holding her. Yes, I couldn't get anything else done. But no, this time I'm not complaining.

1 comment:

  1. If you're coming back to the UK and presumably Bristol then do let us know. It would be good to catch up.