S is for Sleep (for You and Baby) #AtoZchallenge

Welcome to Risky Baby Business here at More Cowbell. We talk about moms and babies every Saturday over here, particularly those of the high-risk variety. If you want to catch up on the previous posts in this series, click here.

Today I’m going to talk about a subject very near and dear to my heart: SLEEP.


I had my daughter when I was 41 years old and my husband was 50, after we’d been told to give up on our dreams of children. Since our days of all-night partying were long behind us, sleep was a pretty important subject.

Plus, as a long-time child development person, I’m aware that sleep and diet are at the root of a ton of health and behavioral issues. Still, an older mom is often a practical mom and I knew I’d be Bitch Mommy from Hell if I couldn’t get this child to sleep on a pretty regular basis as soon as possible.

Y’all have heard me rave before about some of the things that rocked my world during pregnancy and after the baby was born. Two of these things were:

  • The book: On Becoming BabyWise
  • The Happiest Baby On the Block video

Baby Wise – under $10 at Amazon

A cousin of my husband with three children recommended this book when I told her one of our biggest concerns was sleep.

We worked hard at breastfeeding (here’s my post on THAT) and followed Baby Wise to the letter. We had a good experience with it and Baby Girl went about 4 hours between feedings within her first two weeks and slept through the night at 9-10 weeks.

If you’re willing to work hard for the first three weeks to get great sleep in the coming months, Baby Wise is the best game in town. I recommend you read it early so you can internalize it before you have trouble concentrating in your last trimester.

Note: for Preemies or babies who have issues with failure to thrive, all bets are off in those early months and I feel for you.

Happiest Baby on The Block – $17.99 at Amazon

We actually saw this video before the baby was born but we watched it a few more times the first month.

We lived in awe of the 5 S’s from this video (that’s swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking). Swaddling and shushing were by far the most effective means for keeping our baby happy.

My other secret weapon, learned from this video, was the blow dryer. Yep, you heard me. The whole point in that first month is to get the baby turned around to sleep at night and to recreate the conditions of the womb so that child can relax and adjust to the world easier.

If Baby Girl would NOT go to sleep, I turned on the blow dryer. It worked like a charm, every time.

What sorts of events wrecked our sleep?

One of the most frustrating truths of parenting is that it’s like the weather in the Midwest: stick around, it’ll change! Also, what works for one child isn’t guaranteed to work for the next one.

Some things that are likely to make sleep patterns change, or simply keep your child awake:

1. Change of environment

Like I said, our baby slept like a champ from about 2 months on. Until we moved in with my mother-in-law when my daughter was six-and-a-half months old. All bets were off at that point. Not only did she wean herself, almost overnight, but suddenly she became a light sleeper.

Once we were able to move her regular crib over, and everyone wasn’t running around stressed out, caring for a cancer patient, she went back to her previous sleep patterns.

2. Teething

Every baby doesn’t wake up screaming when they cut teeth, but ours did. All night long. We tried everything – some worked and some didn’t. For information on teething, click here.

3. Gas

We freaking love those Simethicone gas drops (Target seems to have the best price) – the brand name is Mylicon. We give them to our daughter to this day whenever we give her a new food. Everything gives this kid gas. She handles it better now, but she used to wake up screaming and was unable to be soothed until the pain was gone.

Twenty plus minutes of walking her and massive gas explosions in her diaper would usually calm her down enough to get her back to sleep. (But, yes, it sucked.) My advice is – if you have a gassy baby – change your diet or the formula if you bottle feed, and use gas drops at each feeding.

Note: The directions on the gas drops lie. They tell you to give them part way through the feeding. LIARS! Our rockstar pediatrician clued us in that you’ll get better results by giving the drops before you start feeding and she was right.

4. Growth spurts

Here is a great link on when to expect growth spurts for your baby. The post is extremely accurate about how to tell whether your child is experiencing one. Our baby woke up in the middle of the night whenever she had a growth spurt and sucked down many ounces of food. When the growth spurt was over, she’d go back to her normal habits (and we’d fall into bed exhausted).

The few times our daughter has been sick, sleep is a dicey business as well, but it is for me too, so that one never surprised me.

What kept the babies in your life awake? Do you have any tips or tricks that have been handed down in your family? Please do share the wealth in the comments – we’ve got lots of pregnant ladies tuning in! 🙂


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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20 Responses to S is for Sleep (for You and Baby) #AtoZchallenge

  1. Great topic Jenny! When we had our daughter our best friend was the Sea-n-Glow Seahorse by Fischer Price. This was the best $18 I’ve ever spent in my life! That little toy is magic and we even bought an “understudy” because at 3AM if the batteries run out I don’t want to change them until the morning. Changing its batteries is difficult but it is worth it. She is almost 2 and still can’t sleep without it! Now we are about to venture into a new realm of hoping for sleep. Our daughter is making the move to the big kid bed next week and I think we have a small hope of her staying there when told. Of course the crib isn’t helping too much with that these days as she loves to climb. Luckily the twin bed will ease my fears of her falling but then I may not be getting much sleep for a while. Great post and series!


  2. MarinaSofia says:

    My older son suffered from colic and it took us a while to figure out that he wasn’t deliberately setting out to annoy us at night, that he was in discomfort, and that lifting up one side of the mattress would help (although he did sometimes slide to the bottom of the cot all in a heap in the morning). The second one was a social animal and would howl the place down in the early hours of the morning,then greet us with ear-to-ear grins when we finally dragged ourselves (pale, bleary-eyed imitations of self) to his room.
    Oh, and I forgot to mention colds. The first year or so of life, babies have constant colds (especially if they go to nursery, playgroup, creche etc.) and, since you can’t blow their nose and they can’t breathe at night, we have spent many a happy hour walking a baby up and down, up and down…


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Did the doctors ever say whether he had any sort of reflux? That was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned the crib elevation.

      My sister had wicked colic and it turns out, she was allergic to soy. It screwed up her whole digestive system until we figured it out. Hence the colic. It was awful…I so feel for you!


    • Oof–colic. We are about two or three weeks past that stage. We tried all kinds of things to soothe her, and to diagnose the underlying issues, and some of those things helped quite a bit. I am thankful that baby did most of her screaming and hysterical crying during the day. She would only nap for a scant 15 minutes a few times each day, so by 6 p.m. or so, she was totally exhausted and would begin a decent sleep cycle. It was awful. But the nights were okay.


  3. Sharing this with my preggy sister. 🙂 Thanks for the great info.!


  4. LauraDrake says:

    Ugh. I knew there was a reason I never signed up for this stuff!
    Sure this is going to help tons of frantic new mothers, Jenny!


  5. Back when we lived in caves, babies were fed on schedules rather than on demand. After a brief period of fussiness, my daughter got used to the program and began sleeping until somewhere around two, when I would get up and bottle-feed her. Then she’d go back to sleep until morning. I’ve always been a big believer in scheduled feeding.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think, if it works for your baby, scheduled feeding is fine. Our daughter was a pretty solid 4 hour schedule, right out of the gate, so we had the best of both worlds. 🙂


  6. The sound machine we had for the twins was the most wonderful thing ever. Who doesn’t love falling asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean? This baby will also be appreciating the ocean. It doesn’t have a choice..lol


  7. Amber West says:

    Great suggestions, Jenny. One I’d like to add for the gassiness – your ped was totally right about using Simethicone before feeding. It has to “catch and gather” the gas before it hits the lower intestines because it does not help once the gas hits down there. If a baby is having pain in the lower intestine due to gas, moms may want to try Colic Calm. We used it with our little guy and it worked wonders. (Warning, it is black, so you will see a change in the diaper – and if you spill it, it can stain)

    We also found that when it came to change of environment, that included how things were in our home, at least in the first three months. If we kept things calm (soothing music playing during the day, not a bunch of people visiting, etc…) he was much calmer when it was time to sleep. If things were hectic, he got overstimulated and it meant I was in for a rough night.

    Love that you are putting this information out there for moms! We can use all the help we can get, right?


  8. K.B. Owen says:

    Great tips, Jenny! Our first baby was a nightmare to get to sleep and stay asleep. He had colic so bad. Turns out, though, that it was artificially-induced colic – he’d caught my bronchitis as a newborn (I coughed him out, basically – that’s ANOTHER story), and was put on antibiotics at 2 weeks old. But I didn’t know this at the time. I’m bringing him back to the doctor weeks later for gas pains and colic; he would be SCREAMING in pain for hours and not soothed by anything – not even gas drops worked. They just shrugged their shoulders. Totally clueless – “Oh, it’s JUST colic” they said (excuse me? JUST colic? Here, YOU want to take him for the night?).

    Fortunately, our next-door neighbor, who worked in the natural supplements industry, correctly surmised that the problem was brought on by the antibiotic, which had wiped out every friendly bacteria in his digestive tract (in addition to the unfriendly bacteria from the bronchitis), and so he couldn’t digest milk properly. Once we added the acidophilus powder to his formula, in a couple of weeks he was fine. It would have taken MONTHS for the friendly cultures to have re-established themselves in his little system otherwise. Can you tell that I’m still mad about it, 19 yrs later, LOL? The same people who prescribed the meds for a 2-week-old can’t connect the dots?

    By the way, I’ve noticed (and a nurse once mentioned this as well) – whenever babies sleep well and then start having trouble sleeping, it means they are about to start a new stage of development – growth spurt, teeth, crawling, walking, etc. Interesting, huh? I’ve found this to be true.

    I’m so glad we’re past this stage in our lives, though! Just sayin’ – LOL.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, I would’ve been so PISSED! Even 19 years later. Were there any longterm affects to losing the intestinal flora so young? Or did it all work out with the acidophilus powder? And who knew you could even give that to a baby?? This is AWESOME advice, Kathy! Thank you. 🙂


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  10. Amber West says:

    Another note for babies that are experiencing reflux issues who are breastfed – some docs are quick to recommend soy formula, stating the baby has a milk allergy. There are many cases where the baby is getting too much of the milk sugar and not enough of the fat. When nursing, the milk comes out in phases (think skim milk, whole milk, then cream). If a baby is fast nurser, he/she may only be getting the foremilk (the skim stuff) if he/she gets switched to the other boob for the next feeding. The hindmilk (the cream) is important to their diet and development, and not getting it can cause issues that make it appear the child has a milk allergy.


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