Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Now that I’ve been a parent for nine months (as long as my wife was pregnant with our son), I have gained some confidence in finding some consistency with this whole thing. Through some quick Internet research, I taught myself how to get Jack to sleep through the night. Granted, he almost always puts up a fight when it’s bedtime, but even he recognizes the comfort of routine.
The last bit of fun that happens for him before his bedtime routine is that he gets a bath, along with plenty of attention from my wife and I. But once I walk into the bedroom with him for bedtime, it’s all business: I don’t look at him, smile at him, touch his skin, talk to him, or feed him. This may seem a bit harsh, but the key is to not engage him or emotionally comfort him in any way.
Comfort is only obtained by him falling asleep. Granted, I make sure he’s physically comfortable as I’m holding him and rocking him. The room, the blanket, the tone I set; it’s all exclusive to his daily bedtime routine and naps. It’s the only time he experiences that version of me.
Note: In the following pictures you will see me demonstrating with a Sleep Sheep, not my actual son. The flash on the camera while he’s trying to fall asleep would have been pretty counterproductive!
My son knows that when I sit him down on his bedroom floor and he watches me unfold his blanket on the extra twin bed, I am about to pick him up to wrap him in a “baby burrito.” Or maybe it’s more like a “baby corn husk” because he likes to have his arms hanging out.
The moment I put my hands under his arms to lift him, he stands up, then leans back Matrix style facing the blanket, hysterically crying as he turns towards the bed. I call it his “wailing wall” routine.
But sure enough, the moment I lay him down on that blanket and begin to wrap him up, he gets quiet and calms down. He lets me rock him for a minute with his head resting on my bicep (my left arm) and my right hand supporting his lower back; then he starts trying to sit up as to escape my embrace.
So I challenge him: I slightly tilt him backwards to make it harder to sit up. After he has completed three or four of what I call his “impossible sit-ups,” he’s ready to give in to my comforting strength. Usually by that point he is officially ready to fall asleep.
To hypnotize him into a “sleep trance,” I “shoosh” him to the rhythm of the first line of “This Old Man.” Then when his eyes close and he starts a slower breathing pattern, I switch to a “Darth Vader snoring” noise to match him. He is asleep at this point.
After a minute or so, when I can see he is in a decently deep sleep, I quickly set him down in his Graco Travel Lite crib and start rocking it back and forth like he’s in a boat at sea. A minute later, I sneak out of the room, still making my “Darth Vader snoring” white noise until I shut the door.
If he wakes up later during the night, I wait ten minutes before going in to help him back to sleep. The reason is that almost every time, he falls back asleep on his own. Usually he’s just transitioning into different sleep cycles when I hear him cry for a minute or so.
It’s weird, but it’s the routine that he and I share every evening at 7 o’clock. It used to take 90 minutes to get him to sleep and he would continue waking up every few hours to be fed again. Now, it only takes around 10 minutes or less and he usually sleeps through the night undisturbed until 6:20 AM the next morning. That’s the power and comfort of routine.
I have to put some perimeters on the sometimes overwhelming open-endedness of life. I can’t imagine things any other way.
Additionally, it is also a spin-off of “There’s a Certain Comfort in Routine.”