As new parents, M and I have learned quickly that when it comes to getting your kid to sleep - as in other emergencies - preparation is key. Here, in no particular order, are the items we've found to be essential in getting our little guy to nap well...and to maintain our sanity.
- A flashlight - actually, this item is used at night rather than at naptime, as a courtesy to the partner still attempting to sleep during the one or two feedings that take place after 10 p.m. and before 7 a.m. What's essential is keeping it from shining on Dylan's face, waking him unnecessarily. This one was once part of a goofy headlamp, but now its nice to have a small, powerful light source easily accessible
- Spit up cloth - typically placed wherever his head is, these old, fancied-up-with-ribbon-by-my-cool-counsin-cloth diapers are a lot easier to swap out when spit up upon than the sheet of his co-sleeper.
- Sleep Sheep - I must confess: when my sis-in-law gave Dylan this white noise machine disguised as an adorable, plush lamb, I thought it was a bit extravagent. Could such a thing really make a difference? Indeed, it does! This clever device offers options: babbling brook, crashing waves, singing whales, or rapid rainfall. Dylan's preference, it turns out, is the deluge. We speculate this is because it sounds most similar to another essential item: the hairdryer. Early in his life, while I was attempting to dry my hair and get out of the house as the baby screamed, we discovered that the Conair 1875 has some kind of magical soothing power. He goes from red faced and inconsolable to serene in seconds whenever it's flipped on. (We recognize this is not a sustainable use of wattage...but sometimes a parent's gotta do what a parent's gotta do, you know?) So, the Sleep Sheep has been a welcome addition to our arsenal. I fear Dylan's addiction, however.
- Binky - paci, pacifer, soothie, whatever you wanna call it, one of these was in our kid's mouth within minutes of birth. And it really does seem to help calm him down. We've pledged to remove them from his life when he's about six months old and should be able to get his own fingers in his mouth to suck or otherwise self-soothe. Wish us luck!
- Binky Numero Dos - see #4. This one is in case the first one fails for some reason (e.g., is projected out of the co-sleeper by a vigorous tongue-thrust).
- Blanket - handmade by a friend of my mother's, this soft, cozy cover has been a constant in Dylan's life since very early on. We love that it provides some warmth, and yet is loosely-knit enough to limit the ever-present fear of suffocation.
- Swaddle blankets - these are truly the essential speel items. We've become big believers in the "fourth trimester" posited by Karp and his "Happiest Baby on the Block." Essentially, his position is that for the first several months of a child's life, we should mimic the womb as much as possible. Tightly wrapping a baby restricts movements like they were before birth, preventing "spasms" that startle and frustrate until the kid is mature enough to have some limb contol. We're not sure about all of that - though it does seem to make some sense. But we do know that swaddling Dylan has helped him - and US - sleep much better.
If you have a child and have been surprised by what helped her or him get needed rest, please share your own "essentials." Truth be told, ours are useful but not always successful, so any suggestions would be much appreciated!