By now, it's not news that the Rock 'n Play Sleeper has been recalled, beloved by many new parents. Many moms and dads reported that it was the only way their baby would sleep. But tragically, it has been tied to numerous infant deaths. Inclined sleepers, like the Rock 'n Play, don't align with safe sleeping guidelines, which in part, require a firm, flat surface.
So, what's a new parent to do when they desperately need their baby to nap? Here are my top three tips.
There are different types of swaddles and different ways of swaddling. Experiment with them until you find one that works for you (and your baby) and is easy to wrap. There are so many to choose from and your baby just might have a preference. Swaddles can come with pouches for feet, wings for arms, velcro attachments, zippers or snaps. They can be a sac or pod. Or, they can be a do-it-yourself rectangle blanket.
Swaddle material comes in cotton, muslin or microfleece.
As newborns grow, their swaddle preference may change. Some may like to have their arms tucked in close to their body while others may prefer to have their fingers accessible to suck on. Some may like to be snuggly wrapped, to evoke a womb-like feeling and other babies may like to be able to stretch and have a little more leg room. Once a baby shows signs of rolling over from back to belly, it's time to stop swaddling.
If you've tried swaddling without success or it has suddenly stopped working, experiment with a different swaddle type or try a variation of your favorite swaddle. Additionally, you can borrow a favorite swaddle from a friend and test it out before investing in your own.
It is developmentally appropriate for newborns and young babies to want to be close to their primary caretaker. After being in the womb for 40 weeks or so, it's understandable that a baby would feel scared and anxious to be left alone without the touch of someone who loves them. They've never been a separate being before.
If your baby won't nap on their own, try wearing them. Being close to your body, feeling your heartbeat and listening to your breath will often relax your baby into a restful state. Even if they don't fall asleep, this will give you a mental break and some hands-free time to make a snack, call a friend or read a book to an older child.
Babywearing is simply holding your baby in a baby carrier. There are many different types to choose from. Among them are ring slings, wraps, soft carriers, and Mei Tais. If you want to try one without first buying, look into a "sling library" near you. These are places where you can go to borrow a carrier, try it out for a month and see if you like it. New parent groups or friends with older children are other helpful resources to seek out when deciding which carrier will meet your needs. Postpartum doulas often bring a carrier or two of their own, when working with a client. If you have a doula, ask if you can try out one of their favorites.
Again, the needs or preferences of your baby will change as they grow. If a particular carrier stops being effective or enjoyable for either you or your baby, switch it up and try something new. But whichever you choose, make sure you never use a baby carrier when driving a vehicle, as a passenger in a car or when jogging and that you're safely using the carrier according to its instructions.
3. Go outside
This might be challenging depending on where you live or the season your baby is born. But if your baby can't settle inside, being outdoors often does the trick.
Dress your baby accordingly, making sure not to overheat them. Lay them flat in a stroller, pram or buggy, swaddled, if they prefer. Take care not to have any loose items in the stroller. If you're not going for a ride in the car, do not use the car seat attachment in your stroller. The safest place for your baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface. If you don't have a stroller that can lay flat, put on your baby carrier, then your own coat and enjoy the outdoors.
New outdoor sensations often lull a baby to sleep. The whoosh of the buses, birds tweeting, people chattering; new smells, the air touching their nose, the motion of the stroller moving through space; the way it feels to be someplace other than indoors, all can put a newborn right to sleep.