When my son, Trip, was about 3 weeks old — still waking up every two or three hours around the clock to nurse and sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed — he had the first of a few episodes in which he projectile-vomited an amount of liquid that would make the makers of The Exorcist proud. It would have been a little funny and a lot gross — if he hadn’t also turned gray and stopped breathing.
We called 911 and brought him to the hospital, where they kept him overnight for observation. We were released the next afternoon with an entirely vague diagnosis. It was probably a fluke, a one-time event, and let’s all just hope it doesn’t happen again. Great. One month later, it happened again. This time, they prescribed two medications and set up a monthly appointment with a pediatric GI specialist. The medications seemed to help, but as a result of the puking-and-not-breathing episodes, doctors insisted that Trip had to sleep on a steep incline — so he wouldn’t aspirate his vomit. Mind you, at this point, he was barely sleeping at all on flat surfaces. We were not optimistic about these new instructions.
So, we bought an inclined Nap ‘n Play rocker. He fell asleep in it sometimes, but at this point, he was no longer a newborn and his legs were hanging over the edge. When he napped, (if he napped) it was twice a day for two 20-minute stretches — and that was it. At night, it was worse; until he woke up every two hours, as if he were still a newborn (he was pushing 1 year old at this point), and although I could usually nurse him back to sleep, the constant waking up in the same place, minutes apart, made me feel like I was just living a real-life Groundhog Day.
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When he couldn’t possibly fit in the rocker anymore, we — again — tried the crib. Trip completely rebelled against it, and would bash his head against the bars as he rolled around. We then tried co-sleeping, during which my husband was convinced he would roll over onto Trip in his sleep and crush him. So then my husband started sleeping on the couch, bad back and all. Everyone we knew told us to try the cry-it-out method, so one desperate night, I laid Trip down in the crib and stood sobbing outside the bedroom door as he wailed and screamed. He worked himself into such a hysteria, his very active gag reflex took over —and he started throwing up. That was the end of that method.
I asked my mom friends how their babies were sleeping, and all of them answered, “Oh, I’m so bored. She sleeps so much!” or “He started sleeping through the night at 4 weeks,” and I would nod and smile and silently curse them and their lack of under-eye bags. I asked for sleeping tips on mommy blogs. I researched baby sleep massage techniques. I bought six different kinds of lavender magnesium lotions. I rocked, sang, read bedtime stories, put up blackout curtains, tried a sound machine, bought a doll that breathed and had a heartbeat (and sounded creepily like Darth Vader) — until one day, when my friend texted me a photo of her 9-year-old daughter’s “floor bed.”
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “Has this been the answer all along?” I got a super-thin mattress pad, awkwardly tossed it onto the floor of our room, and stared at it. Sure, Trip was only 1, but if he slept on the floor, he could have more room to move around than in his crib, nothing right up against his sleeping space to bang his head on. We could easily bolster the pad up with a rolled towel if he needed an incline, and if he rolled “out of bed” here, he wouldn’t even notice. But would he actually sleep?
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That night, I nursed Trip down, hummed his lullaby and lowered him onto the floor. He slept nine hours that night, only waking once for an early-morning feeding. I could barely keep myself from dancing. Today, he’s been sleeping on the floor for four months, and while I’m still working on my under-eye bags, I no longer replace all the words in his lullabies with, “Go the fuck to sleep.”