In our 8 week battle to get Oliver to sleep in his crib, we tried just about everything. The hot water bottle in the bed, the piece of clothing so he can still smell me .. even Ewan the sheep and his therapeutic white noise wouldn't settle our little one. He'd fall asleep so easily in our arms but no matter what we did, he'd wake up as soon as we put him down. We'd persevere, but after five or six cycles of rocking/singing him to sleep, waiting for him to get into a deep sleep, putting him down and then comforting him when he cried hysterically minutes later, we'd give up.
For the first 8 weeks of his life, I slept (or dozed at the most) propped up with pillows surrounding me while holding Oliver on my chest. It broke all the rules on safe sleeping, but it was literally the only way we could function. I spent the first months dreading night time and the mental torture of trying the same failed methods with a tired baby screaming in my face and on top of that, I had the guilt of co-sleeping and the worry that something might happen.
We'd spoken to parents who have had a similar problem (and had also ended up co-sleeping) and all of them said the same thing - it's trial and error. Keep trying different things and eventually you'll find the winning combination. Every baby has their breakthrough night eventually.
So we kept going and two weeks ago we went from sleepless nights to a full 9 hour sleep, with Oliver in his side-sleeping crib. When he woke for a bottle at 5am, I'd already been awake for twenty minutes staring at him in disbelief! I thought it might have been a fluke (as we'd had a few of those) but since that night, he's slept in his crib every night(!) and everything seems to have fallen into place. There's a few things that I think contributed towards Oliver settling at night but here's the top 3 and the most important ones in my opinion. Here's our winning combination - our breakthrough!
1. Acid Reflux - We noticed that Oliver would often grunt, cough and cough up when laid on his back. He wasn't bring up his milk, it was more like an acidic water and after reading online, it became clear he had all the symptoms of acid reflux. Things got worse around 5 weeks and after trying baby gaviscon (which just made him constipated and even more unhappy), we were prescribed Ranitidine. This is a liquid medicine given in a syringe into his mouth three times a day. It took around a week to have a noticeable effect but he's been much better. He still coughs up every now and then but it's no where near as bad. We noticed it was working when he started enjoying being on his changing mat!
2. Swaddling - I always knew that Oliver needed to be swaddled because his startle reflex would often be the thing that woke him up, but he just wouldn't let us do it. If we managed to wrap him in a blanket, he'd fight his way out within a few minutes. One night (at around 3am I'm sure), I discovered these velcro swaddles on Amazon and had to give them a try. On the first night, I watched Oliver startle himself several times but since the velcro held the swaddle completely in place, he didn't wake up. It must have made him feel like he was being held. Swaddling is definitely the best way to stop the startle reflex and I'm so glad we kept trying!
3. The Swing - A huge turning point has been getting Oliver to sit on his own during the day. Until then, he'd always need to be held throughout the day unless he was being pushed in the pram. He would cry in his vibrating bouncy chair or if I'd sit him upright on the couch with pillows. My mum bought him this swinging chair and it's been a total life changer. Oliver really enjoys being in the swing and it's adorable to watch him smiling and looking around. If he's tired, he will quite happily go for a nap in it and this has got him used to sleeping on his own and out of my arms.
Did any of you have a baby that wouldn't sleep on his back? What was your breakthrough?