Monday, July 21, 2014

The "Kangaroo Care" and "Back to Sleep" Campaigns Don't Play Nice in the Sandbox

Public Service Announcement: "The Back to Sleep" Campaign and Kangaroo Care do NOT play nice in the sandbox. And by that, I mean, a mother cannot really be expected to do both when she is taking care of her baby postpartum in the hospital.

(Secondary PSA: This post will also have nothing to do with diabetes, except that you may want to pull your blood sugar monitor into bed with the baby when you do it!).

After my first son was born, I felt very strongly that I wanted him in my room with me during recovery, and not in the nursery. This was encouraged by the Bradley Method childbirth classes my husband and I took, and besides, it just seemed to make sense. I just gave birth to a tiny human being and we need to spend a little time getting to know each other, right? Besides, shouldn't the baby be most comfortable closest to me, since he's been inside me for the last nine months?

As I lay in my hospital bed with my husband snoring on the couch next to me, they placed my first son in that little plastic box and prepared to leave the room. The nurse shut the door with a "call if you need anything." As the door clicked shut, I suddenly realized that my baby was all of five feet away, but I literally could not reach him. I wasn't even sure it would be possible for me to lift my body out of them bed to sit up, much less pick him up and position him properly to do anything. Then, he started crying...

I don't know what I did that first night in the hospital, but I have encountered the same problem every time I have been lying in the hospital bed next to that little plastic box. How to lift my body into a sitting position? How to sit up when my body is so weak and exhausted from labor? Is it worth it this time, or should I just let him cry for a few minutes? And then, the frustration of swaddling the baby, and putting the baby in the box, only to have him start crying again just after you lay your head down on the pillow.

So the "Back to Sleep Campaign" would have the baby on his back in the plastic box whenever he's sleeping, which, in theory, is most of the time. In fact, however, the baby is more often crying when he's on his back in the box, and almost always happy when he's nestled close to your skin. "Kangaroo Care," or something like it, is the obvious advice for those who have observed how much babies like to be next to their mothers - lots of skin-to-skin contact, holding baby close to your chest, nursing frequently, etc. It's also apparently very good for them.

But how to achieve the "Kangaroo Care" ideal when you a) are forced to lie down a lot because you're exhausted and b) the baby is sleeping most of the time he's with you, but simply won't sleep in that plastic box? Even my happiest baby (number two) would barely sleep in the box the first two days of life. "Back to Sleep" and "Kangaroo Care" just don't play nicely in the sandbox, and I'm frustrated by that. I want my babies to be safe and healthy and not crying, but these recommendations just don't seem to work well together.

So I am all ears to creative solutions to this problem, but the only solution I can come up with is to just pull that baby into bed with me. And most of the time they are not on their backs, because they are nursing. And very often, I was sleeping...or at least resting with my eyes closed. Believe me, I would not be likely to argue for co-sleeping with toddlers, since I like having a little more space in my own (rather small double) bed. But I am very close to considering it all almost necessary with a newborn!

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