It’s no secret. Wally Ben is not the most peaceful of babies. People I run into ask me, “How’s Wally Ben?” and I want to answer, “Great! He’s amazing! The best-behaved baby on the block! I could write a book on how to have a perfect baby!” But alas, even though I firmly believe in my college English professor’s theory that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, I have to lean toward the truth. Which is that he’s a frequent crier, and so far has demanded a lot of our attention just toward keeping him from fussing.

This is difficult, as a new parent. I had always pictured the little baby in my belly would be a happy, pleasant little fellow. I pictured myself figuring out this parenting thing by practicing on a little lump who cooed and smiled and loved his swing, and enjoyed every book I read him from start to finish, and who played with me when he wasn’t eating or sleeping. The fussy baby would be that stranger’s baby. I just knew Wally V and I would stand in line at the grocery store, he would be laughing at the faces I made, and then we would look at the crying baby that was passing and shake our heads, “Poor baby. Poor mom. Colic. She should try eating less spicy foods! She should read my perfect baby book! Good thing we’re so happy!” (This vision is the opposite of what happened yesterday. Picture me, Target, dog food and baby in the cart, Wally wailing, me rocking forward and back frantically hoping the lady in front of us sympathizes enough to let me cut with my one item. She didn’t. _____! [Insert bad name here.])

Anyhow, much of the past 10 weeks has been devoted to theories, theories, theories. I’ve searched “Fussy Baby” and “Colic” so many times that I was surprised when they didn’t make the top 10 list of most searched words on Google for 2009. We tried gas drops, which didn’t help but made us feel like we were doing something. I gave up orange juice. (Strangely, that is the only thing I’ve been willing to drop from my diet. Apparently I’d rather drink milk and listen to him cry than give up the ol’ 2 percent.) We dressed him warmer. When he sweated, we dressed him cooler. We bounced him on the exercise ball. We carried him around in the Bjorn.

And I finally think I’ve pegged it. He had a great weekend at the beginning of December. We went away with Wally’s family, and I was certain it would shake up to be an interesting weekend, with many hands to help us calm the little guy. But Wally Ben showed a new pleasant side all weekend. To the point where I was glad Wally’s parents had witnessed his wails on earlier visits to help us attest that it was true, usually he cried a lot. He behaved that weekend like an angel baby. When he wasn’t sleeping. He napped the majority of both days.

A few weeks later, a lightbulb went off. Perhaps the little man needed more sleep! I looked up Napping1recommended or typical sleep patterns, only to find that he should be getting 7 hours during the day, and 8.5 at night. He usually got around 8 total at night (several stretches added together to 8), but only around 2 during the day. Our fussy baby was tired!

I think 7 is a little much to hope for, but since then we’ve been trying to get him to sleep at least 5 hours. So, he’s been slightly less fussy, because we have managed to get him to sleep through much of the fussy time.

The issue is, he fights sleep. Especially when he’s the most sleepy! So we really have to work hard to get the naps started. Our recent favorite has been putting him in his carseat and swinging him back and forth. And yes, this is every bit as painful to our backs as it sounds, and no, he won’t react to the swing the same way.

Issue number two is that I didn’t know how to put him down for a nap. In fact, I still don’t know! After my lightbulb moment, I looked up advice on napping. All the advice was, “Oh, I look for signs of tiredness, then put him down for a nap,” and “Oh, I put him down for a nap after he’s been up for 2 hours,” etc. But no one explained what “put him down” meant!

I would love to just put Wally Ben in his crib and have him fall asleep. So far, however, not happening. If I Nappingget him to sleep by bouncing him, then set him in the crib, his little arms flail, he hits himself in the face, and he wakes up. The longest nap this way has been 40 minutes, and these naps average about 20 minutes. He sleeps swaddled at night, but I hesitate to swaddle him during the day because I want him to learn to sleep unswaddled. Wally Ben has successful 2 hour naps either 1. resting on mom and dad or 2. strapped into his carseat.

Any advice from you moms and dads out there? Right now, as I write, he’s sleeping nestled against my belly. He’s been napping for 1 hour and 15 minutes this way so far. And I’m terrified to get up. To make any sudden movements. To ruin this great start to the day! Help me get him into his crib, please!

Something as expecting parents that we were not warned about: parenting is terrifying! This baby will scare you! This baby will make you watch the minutes on the clock tick by, and you will scream inside until the appropriate amount of time passes for a good nap!

But then, this baby will smile at you, sometime later in the day. And you will forget your terror. And you will forget about stresses of your job, and how messy the house is, and the poor state of the economy, and that you haven’t done this or that yet, and that the dog just ate a whole loaf of sourdough bread off the counter. (Very bad girl, Ellie!) That smile has magical powers to wipe all that away. To make it disappear, like a loaf of sourdough bread on a countertop. That smile will be your light. Your whole world. And a good world, at that.

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