Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Co-sleeping, Dad-Napping, and the Almighty Baby-Bjorn

My initial bonds with Jack formed while he was sleeping. He refused to sleep anywhere but directly on or adjacent to his mom or me (or the occasional grandparent); his basinet and crib laid empty for the first 5 months of his life. Makes sense, of course, having spent the first 9 months of his life swimming around in a vat of intra-uterine happiness, listening to his mom’s heartbeat all day long.

At night, he slept with us in bed (the hippies call it co-sleeping). We’d take turns, I’d have him in the crook of my arm until he got fussy, and then my wife would put him on her breast and they’d (restlessly) sleep together until he got handed back over to my side of the bed. Sometimes, when he was really fussy, I’d take him down and sleep with him on the couch or basement to give his mom a bit more time for sleep.

Interesting, though, how co-sleeping seems to be a bit taboo. In fact, we were embarrassed to tell our family and friends, because we thought they’d think we were bad parents. Our friends babies were sleeping through the night in their cribs right away, and our little guy was the most spoiled sleeper ever! Wasn’t co-sleeping unsafe? What if you crush your baby? Turns out that co-sleeping is actually pretty common, and was pretty much the norm until relatively recently in human history. And, we felt that it was safe and quite frankly, much easier than getting out of bed every 30 minutes to deal with a crying baby. Funny, once we got comfortable enough with it to tell other people, we found out that we weren’t the only ones. There are lots of closet co-sleepers out there!

During the day, Jack had one of two favored nap spots. First, he liked to nap on me while I was laying on the couch. Thank goodness for the iPhone and Angry Birds, or I’d have never made it through the boredom of hours of being a human mattress. Second, when I wanted to get some work done, he napped in the Baby Bjorn. In fact, anytime he got fussy, and we knew it was time for a nap, I’d throw him in the Baby Bjorn, do some work around the house, and he was asleep instantly. This allowed me to get a bit of work done at the computer, rather than shooting birds at towers of rock and wood to smash some snide green pigs.

Man that Baby Bjorn was a life saver! Ours was actually a hand-me-down from my sister-in-law. Probably the most useful gift we ever got. We did everything with that Baby Bjorn. We danced at a wedding, took 4 am walks on the beach, and went to meeting after meeting after meeting. Jack would wake up, look around for awhile, and go back to sleep. What a life!

A particularly memorable incident with the Baby Bjorn involved us walking up-and-down a very hip street in a very hip town in southern California. The movie ‘The Hangover’ had come out about a year prior, which starred a baby wearing sunglasses in a Baby Bjorn. There were all sorts of t-shirts depicting this baby in the store windows, and here Jack and I were walking down the street. I probably heard 154 people say “man, you look just like that movie”; they all seemed surprised to see that Jack was real, and not just a decal on a t-shirt. And, being the most adorable baby in the world, Jack was getting tons of attention.

So, there we were we strutting our stuff down the main drag on a Saturday afternoon, having just picked up Jack’s mom from a workshop she was in. Jack had actually not been feeling very well because I had to feed him some formula while his mom was working, and it wasn’t agreeing with him. The streets were hopping with all sorts of young folks trying to be seen. A couple of young women were cooing over Jack and exclaimed “oh, it’s just like that movie” when projectile spit-up of Excorcist quality came flying out. I guess Jack was pretty sick of all of the movie comments too…

Back to napping: As I said, Jack didn’t sleep by himself until he was nearly 5 months old (you’ll see a photo of his very first nap in the crib to the right). It was frustrating, never having a moment to yourself, and we were so happy to have him sleeping 4, 5, 6 hours or even longer by himself. But, whenever times were tough, and Jack was having trouble taking a nap or sleeping at night, I could grab him, lie on the couch with the TV or my iPhone and have him napping in minutes.

Over the past couple of months, Jack’s sleeping habits have changed. He’s sleeping like a real baby, 8-9 hours at night and two good naps (in his crib) during the day. But I have to admit that even though his nap time is pretty much the only time I have to write this blog (and get anything else done), sometimes I long for the days of having a sweet little baby sleeping in the crook of my arm. About the same time Jack started to really sleep better, my life took a rather difficult turn; I lost my job and I became an instant stay-at-home-dad. One day, Jack was having some trouble napping and I thought I’d take him downstairs for some baby-cuddling sleep time. It would do good for him sleeping, and for me in dealing with my troubles, I thought. But he just cried louder, until I put him back down in his crib. I guess he no longer needs his Dad-mattress, even if his Dad-mattress sometimes needs him.

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