Jason 1, Declan 0.
Or maybe: Jason 7.5, Colleen 7.5, Declan 7.5.

Our little escape artist managed to sleep for seven and a half hours straight–two nights in a row!– without once hitting himself in the face or repeatedly slamming his legs down into the mattress in some Riverdance homage. How, you ask, did we manage such a feat? I give you the banana hammock (baby version).

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We’ve been swaddling Deck from week one, with the idea being that a) it’s apparently like being back in the womb, 2) it would stop his legs and arms from going rogue, 3) the strait-jacket look is totally in right now. But up until this point, results have been mixed, primarily because Declan is a jiu-jitsu master with the strength of a baby rhinoceros.

At first, we used the “woombie” primarily because it’s the most user friendly. Put him in, zip him up, done.

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Well, as Colleen’s abdomen will tell you from such times as pregnancy, our boy has very strong legs. And the woombie, as it turned out, was not only a little too small, it was also no match for Declan’s leg strength. He was able to, somehow, shimmy around enough to move the fabric down, free his arms, and thus achieve his admittedly questionable goal of clawing his eyes out with jagged baby nails.

So we moved onto the next entry in the Swaddle Sweepstakes…. the “Swaddle Me” sack. This one is only a little more complex. Stuff feet inside, wrap fabric around baby, seal the deal with velcro tabs. Velcro!

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The results?

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I should also point out that we tried a regular swaddling blanket which I think is what you graduate to after a decade of Boy Scout knot-tying. I, however, was not a Boy Scout and so I wrap about as well as I rap…which is to say poorly, but with great enthusiasm and a white man’s overbite. Colleen is much better. Still, if Declan wants to get out of the blanket, he will.

So then a few friends told me about the Miracle Blanket. Raved about the Miracle Blanket, I should say. One of the fascinating facets of parenthood is the way just holding a baby elicits an immediate response from other parents who, often, follow up their “how old?” question by listing off must-have baby products (everyone’s are different) and then looking at you skeptically when you say you do not have/use said product.

But my Miracle Blanket friends were different…good moms who’ve been where we are. What the hell? Give it a try. So I googled the Miracle Blanket and that’s when it hit me. We already have one of those.

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Yeah, we’d ruled this one out, like, two weeks in. Never used it. Too complicated. There are small flaps and big flaps and medium-sized flaps and not enough baby crevices to put them in. Or so I thought. But given the stakes (sleep, sanity), I decided to do give it another try. And that required doing something crazy. Reading the instructions.

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If you can get past the somewhat creepy diagrams, the instructions actually DO clear things up. This is, for all intents and purposes, a straight jacket. The small flaps go over their arms and behind the back, rendering their arms basically immobile. The next biggest flap goes around the torso and behind the back, taking care of the shoulders. It worked great the first night. 6 straight hours of sleep. But by night two, we were back to the status quo….waking up every three or four hours.

The design failure, in my mind, is with the sack that holds the baby’s feet. Because, see, it doesn’t hold the baby’s feet. Not for any real amount of time. Our Houdini kicked his way out every night, spooked himself, and then it was Riverdance all over again. Basically, the opposite of this:

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So I was frustrated. But I knew the Miracle Blanket was a step in the right direction. I hadn’t totally ruled out duct tape for the legs when I came across the term “double swaddle” during a late-night googling session. Some parents, it seemed, were not messing around in their attempts to turn their babies into miniature living mummies, combining different swaddling products and techniques for optimal baby control. So I looked around at what I had. And then came the stroke of genius. The Miracle Blanket holds down the arms. What will hold down the legs? The Woombie, of course!

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I had both laid out on the bed the other night when Colleen came in. She looked me. I looked at her. She looked down at the swaddle spread and back up at me. I looked at her. “Really?” she said, sounding just like
Seth and Amy on SNL.

Really, I said. He’ll never fit, she said. I think he will, I said. In the end, we were both right.

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The Woombie doesn’t zip up all the way, true, but it zips up far enough to immobilize the legs, which was the only goal. The fact that he looks like, in Colleen’s words, a half-peeled banana is irrelevant to me. The fact that he has slept through the night twice… is not.

One of the great things about parenthood is how it forces you to be creative. You’re facing challenges you’ve never faced before, challenges which are somewhat unique to your baby and your family. You’re bombarded with advice from friends, family, books, the interwebs. And you basically turn into this mad scientist, experimenting with all of it, seeing what works. That’s how I found myself holding Deck in the middle of the night, shushing like the teacher’s pet in a noisy class of 5th graders while simultaneously rotating my body from side to side like a crippled helicopter, unable to lift off. It looks and sounds ridiculous, but apparently the sound and the motion are calming to him…quieting him down and allowing him to drift off to sleep. And now, thanks to my Baby Banana Hammock TM, he might just stay down. You know, until next week when he learns to rollover and we can no longer swaddle him. D’oh!

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