I’m not gonna lie, but the first three months of Thad’s life are mostly a blur. What I do recall is that I was a walking zombie (the first night I got 4 hours of sleep straight I felt like a million bucks), I hated breastfeeding (and it hated me), I turned into a mamma bear (as in no one but my immediate family had best be touching my baby), my baby looked like an alien (and I avoided posting photos of him… shhh… don’t tell him), and that it seemed like the crazy would never end. Apparently at around six weeks I called my dear friend crying and saying that I had an unhappy baby. I don’t remember this conversation, but I was absolutely devastated to have a “colicky” baby (for the record, Thad has turned out to be the most un-fussy baby on earth and everyone laughs at us now).
With so many friends having babies in the last few months (some new, others on the wagon for a second or fourth time), I figured it would be good to recall those first three months of crazy to help some sisters out!
Most parents, old and new, have heard of The Happiest Baby on the Block. If you haven’t, learn it. Basically Dr. Karp emphasizes the fourth trimester — wherein he explains that the reasons why humans are born after 10 months is because our heads are so big and it’s the only way that both mother and baby would survive. If you take this logic (which I do), then you basically need to think about the shock your little one is going through when they come out of the womb. While I’m sure they’re stoked to see you, the only place they really want to be is right back in your belly (git in my belly!... sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Following Dr. Karp’s advice of the five S’s – Swaddling, Side, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking — this is exactly what you should be focusing on these first three months. I would say the first 8 weeks are definitely the most trying/exhausting/shocking; but putting these into practice really make a difference.
Here’s how we tackled the five S’s:
Swaddling – We tied little Thadman up like he was a crazy man in a straight jacket. Using our awesome swaddling blankets from aden + anis (these are the best because they stretch just enough but not too much), we tied that little guy down. The key with swaddling is to do it tight so they feel like they’re back in the womb. No need for a Miracle Blanket (but use it if you’ve got it), as I found it too cumbersome for middle of the night diaper changes.
Side + Swinging – We basically put these two together once we had the little guy swaddled. Then we’d do a football hold with his face facing out and swing him like no tomorrow. When we were trying to get him to sleep or calm down we also threw on the exhaust fan from over our stove (on high. The noisier the better) and this really calmed him down. Mark’s favorite for swinging was the Moby Wrap, while I preferred (and still do) the Ergo (but you can’t really do this one on the side. The Ergo was also great to use to hold the baby while cooking or needing to hold him and use my hands… once I started to get the hang of things, of course!). Lots of people have success with the baby swing too, but Thad wasn’t into it at all.
Shushing – We generally mixed this one with the side swing as well when I got worried that I was going to kill the exhaust fan or we just got tired of hearing it. Basically we’d walk around the house with him mummified, swinging him and going “Shhh, Shhh, Shh” really loudly (our doula did it the best).
Sucking – This one’s an easy one. Throw him on the boob or else give him a paci or your finger. It soothes them and calms them down.
The other one that’s not necessarily part of the five S’s is heading outside. Many cultures say that babies (and mommies) shouldn’t leave the house for the first 30 days, but taking a walk around the block with Dad, Grandma or the dog will really do both Mom and baby some good. In the afternoon when everyone is getting a bit stir crazy is a great time to head out because the baby will nap and who doesn’t love some fresh air? Besides, getting some direct vitamin D from the sun will help with keeping the jaundice away.
The first time we started taking Thad out to eat with us was around 3-4 weeks (3-4 weeks was breakfast, 5 weeks was a family sushi date). This was great for us because we started to feel a bit more normal and like we knew what we were doing. But this was all before sleep training and schedules entered our lives…. More on that later.
Remember though… every baby is different. What works for some in terms of technique might not work for others. However, I highly recommend trying your version of the five S’s because these really make a difference.