Tuesday 21 June 2005

Little Bean Burrito

Yesterday Istra and I went for a walk to the library. She seems to like riding in the stroller and even though she was awake the whole way there, she didn’t make a sound. Though of course as soon as we got to the library and the stroller was no longer in continual motion, she started to get fussy. By the time I found the book that I’d reserved on the hold shelf and brought it to the check out she was wailing quite loudly and I had to let a couple people go ahead of me in the line so that I could try to calm her.

She settled down just enough for me to get my library card out and maneuver us in the direction of the check out. I put my book on the counter for the librarian to scan—Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer. The librarian looked at me, looked at the book, looked at Istra and then gave me a look like, “Uh, yeah, good luck with that.”

I managed to read a little bit of the book before bed—just enough to discover that Karp has a somewhat crackpot theory that human evolution has caused women to go from a 12 month gestation period to a 9 month gestation period, which means that when a baby is born at full term it is actually still three months premature. He believes that the shortened gestation period was necessary for human survival—as the human race got smarter, babies grew bigger heads and it was necessary to evict them sooner so that both mother and baby could survive labour.

All this sounds sort of silly to me, but what Karp does with this theory is interesting. He says that in order for babies to be comforted during this three month period (the time when most babies develop colic) all one has to do is create the “fourth trimester” or recreate a womb-like environment in which the baby can feel “at home”. There are five ways in which one can do this, which Karp calls the Five S’s of the Fourth Trimester—swaddling, side-lying, shushing, swinging and sucking. Swaddling the baby creates the tight and enclosed feel that the baby would have felt in the last months of pregnancy; laying the baby on its side is apparently more calming than on the back—a position in which the baby is more easily startled; making a loud “shh” noise simulates that sounds that the baby would have heard in the womb; swinging or rocking the baby recreates the movements of the mother that the baby would have felt; and sucking—well, that’s just obvious.

So last night when Istra got a little bit fussy after her last daytime feeding, I broke out the swaddling blanket that Rachel gave me at my baby shower and wrapped her nice and tight. Since she’d already been fed I gave her my finger to suck on. I am not exaggerating when I say that Istra went from freaking out to fast asleep in about two minutes. It was great! And on top of that, she didn’t wake up all night. Around her usual feeding times she would start to make little noises, but she never woke up completely and actually fed in her sleep. This made things much easier for me, as I didn’t have to worry about flailing arms or any of the weirdness that usually accompanies the end of a feeding—when she can’t decide if she’s done or not and won’t feed and won’t go back to sleep. Instead, it was all very smooth and business-like and I got to go back to sleep sooner.

After this morning’s feed and change I wrapped Istra back up in her burrito blanket. She seems to not like her arms tucked in very much. Last night when I wrapped her up I wasn’t very diligent about keeping her arms at her sides so that they couldn’t escape. She seemed okay when her arms popped out again, even though Dr. Karp suggests that flailing arms are often the cause of premature wakings. I think I might experiment with this, though, because Istra does love to fling her arms up above her head and sleep in that position. We have quite a few pictures to attest to that!

Sigh. Won't it be nice when I have something to talk about other than sleep?

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