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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.
This has been a sequel to “Getting My Infant to Sleep through the Night,” which itself was a sequel to “Is It Wrong to Let Your Baby Cry It Out?“.
Additionally, it is also a spin-off of “There’s a Certain Comfort in Routine.”
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
That’s the exact phrase I recently Googled; “Is it wrong to let your baby cry it out?” The results were nearly equally mixed; from stay-at-home moms to doctors.
What my wife and I had been doing was not working for our son so I decided to step up and be proactive. Yes, I am one of those parents who unashamedly uses the controversial “cry it out” method when it comes to getting my son to go to sleep.
Granted, there are many versions of the method; some more harsh than others. Today, I would like to share with you my version of it.
When my now seven month old son began crawling over a month ago, his former sleep schedule became abruptly derailed. He began putting up a fight when it was time for him to go to sleep every night.
My son Jack became so preoccupied with his newly acquired mobility that his body just couldn’t stop moving, despite the fact he was exhausted and desperately needed rest. He would even crawl in his sleep!
It didn’t take long for me to see the connection between his mobility obsession and his inability to fall asleep with the comfort of my wife’s usual routine with him. The new normal was that it would take my wife 90 minutes or more to get him to sleep.
Needless to say, she was worn out and frustrated by the time it was over. And I was frustrated to see her so frustrated. Not to mention, by the time she got him to sleep, it was nearly time for the two of us to go to bed.
I respect the concept of quality time in our marriage. And it just didn’t seem kosher that A) it should be that much trouble to get our son to bed and B) that our quality time together should be interfered with so greatly by something as seemingly natural as a baby falling asleep.
After barely skimming a chapter of a book on “crying it out” and a few websites, I decided to apply what I had learned. The first night, it took my 43 minutes to get my son to sleep. The second night, 27 minutes; the third; 17 minutes. And now, a week later, I can often get him to sleep within 10 to 12 minutes. (Tonight, it took me less than 5 minutes!)
Not only has the method caused my wife and me to be better relaxed and rested, but it also does the same for our son. He wakes up less during the night now.
He goes to sleep a little earlier and wakes up a little later. That’s not to say I’m excited by the fact that I have less quality time withhim during the day; but I do recognize that he was being deprived of quality sleep time before I started applying the method.
I recognize the common concern that the baby will become psychologically damaged by the process. I disagree; not the way I do it, at least. In fact, I proclaim that for the babies in the world who need the “cry it out” method, they actually become psychologically nurtured.
My son’s developing emotions have not yet successfully connected to rational thinking. Half of his body is telling him, “Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” The other half is saying, “I’m tired! I need sleep! I’m so sleepy it’s all I can think about!”
That’s where I come in. I help my son make those connections in his brain. And I do it with the structure and strength he craves. I view it as an early form of discipline. Not discipline in the form of punishment or discomfort, but in the form of guidance and assurance.
Here’s a brief look at the Nick Shell version of the “cry it out” method:
1) As it gets close to his established bed time (6:30 PM), I take him to his bedroom and shut the door, letting him play for a few final minutes on the floor with his toys.
2) When he shows signs of being ready to go to sleep (rubbing his eyes, being unable to sit well), I wrap him up in his blanket and begin gently rocking him. I make sure that he is physically comfortable as I hold him; not holding him too tightly.
3) When he begins doing his “protest cries” (crying at the top of his lungs), I give him a hug by holding him more firmly- but only in that moment of him belting out his cry; so ultimately during the two seconds he lets out a cry, I hold him more tightly, but obviously not squeezing him or hurting him.
4) As his eyes close, I continue rocking him in my arms, waiting for him to officially fall asleep and start snoring.
5) I wait a few more minutes to make sure he has entered a sleep deep enough to endure my lying him down in his bed.
6) Then I hold him over his bed for another minute, but ceasing to rock him. This prepares him for the landing.
7) I slowly yet steadily lower him to his bed and remove my hands from his head and legs, lying him down. I wait another minute to make sure he is going to stay asleep, then I quietly leave the room.
8) If it any point from Step 3 to Step 7 he refuses to stop crying for more than one minute, I carefully set him down in his bed and leave the room. The first time I leave him, I’m only gone for one minute. The next time, three; then five, then ten. But never more than ten minutes pass before I return to try again. Each time I return, I restart at Step 3 by re-wrapping him in the blanket and gently rocking him.
The most crucial element with this method is that you, the parent, are consistent. Do it every night. Never give up during the middle of it.
When necessary, I remind myself that I am the one who controls my son, not the other way around. I don’t give him the ability to frustrate me with his illogical behavior; instead, I frustrate him with my logical behavior. He doesn’t get me worked up emotionally; instead, I redirect his emotions.
I realize that may sound intense to some, but I believe my son needs structure now more than he ever has needed it in his life. I believe if I let him have his way and take 90 minutes or more to fall asleep on his own, I would be sending a message to him that he is able to make the rules. I believe for him, that could actually be psychologically misleading and damaging. I love my son, therefore I use this version of the “cry it out” method.
In closing, I write this with the assumption that at least 70% of readers passionately disagree with me on this issue. By no means am I trying to convert anyone to this seemingly unloving yet effective method. I simply want to share what works for me (a normal guy; not an expert) and tell the other side of the story- to answer the question by saying, “No, it’s not wrong to let your baby cry it out.”
I welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree. Just remember, I don’t approve comments that insult the character or intelligence of other commenters or of myself: Make it constructive, not destructive. Make it legitimate; not sarcastic and condescending.
Categories: Growing Up, Health, Home Life, Recaps, Story Bucket, Storytelling | Tags: baby behavior, baby blog, baby sleep patterns, controversial, cry it out method, dad blog, fatherhood, getting your baby to go to sleep, marriage, sleeping, taboo
Saturday, December 11th, 2010
Men aren’t supposed to like changing diapers. And I suppose no one truly likes changing diapers, but something I have learned in these 3 and a half weeks so far is that it’s really not that bad right now. He’s still in the “yellow, seedy poop” stage. So I can’t honestly say that the smell is difficult to deal with. The hardest part about changing his diapers is taking off his clothes and putting them back on.
The way I look at it, despite all that my wife does for not only our son but for us as well, if there’s one thing I can do efficiently, it’s to change his diapers. Granted, as much as my parents and sister and her husband have helped out as well, it’s not like I’m changing the majority of his diapers anyway. But if nothing else, I have learned that a dirty diaper is not something I fear or have any valid reason to avoid. Though I do prefer it when he’s wearing a onesie: easy access.
In theory, Jack would spend the majority of his sleeping hours in his nice crib. But in reality, during the day he sleeps wherever he ends up falling asleep. Sometimes it’s his sock monkey bed, sometimes it’s the papason chair, and sometimes it’s somebody’s arms. It’s funny how it’s an infant’s full time job to sleep. When he wakes up, Jack typically goes through a 15 minute stretching ordeal. I love how he is essentially exhausted from sleeping all the time.
I have always secretly wanted a fur coat- the chic yet manly kind like Rocky Balboa had. That appears to be in the genes as Jack loves to be wrapped up in the finest, softest materials. Jack lives such a glorious, pampered life. He has an appreciation for the finer things in life. But he also isn’t above loudly passing gas when people hold him. That’s good- it shows he’s culturally balanced.
Categories: People, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: babies, baby blog, baby crib, changing diapers, dad, dad from day one, fur coat, newborns, parenting, pee, poop, Rocky Balboa, sleeping
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
Right before our finale Lamaze class a few weeks ago, my wife and I stopped by Walgreens to kill some time since we had arrived a little too early. While walking through the pet aisle, a sock monkey pet bed caught my eye. Immediately it occurred to me that this could potentially make the perfect nap station for a baby. But it was too soon- our baby hadn’t even been born yet and I had to know that it wasn’t a crazy idea first. He’s here now though.
And sure enough, the time of day that Baby Jack sleeps the hardest starts about an hour before I get home from work, during dinner, and at least an hour afterwards. So while my wife and I eat dinner and catch up, we have been wrapping him up in a blanket and placing him safely on the couch while he was dreams about puppies. After seeing that this was a new routine, my thoughts returned to the sock monkey pet bed (or “baby nap station”). Therefore, I knew what Jack’s Christmas gift from me would be.
I wondered what my wife would think when I came home last Monday night with a sock monkey pet bed in my hands. But when I explained why I had paid 13 bucks for a pet bed though we don’t have any pets, her immediate response was, “Well, let’s try it out.” Needless to say, Baby Jack loves his sock monkey nap station. While we do put him in it during dinner, it also is great because it is virtually weightless so we can easily carry him around the house while he’s asleep- anytime of day.
So my question is…why hasn’t someone thought of this sooner? If only I could make millions off this idea- but the product already exists. So I’ll have to settle for being the guy who started the trend of using a pet bed as a portable nap station for their baby. Though it is pretty clearly documented here that I invented the “portable baby nap station”- so when I see an infomercial for it in a few months, I’ll be calling that toll free number to get my cut of the profits. I can sleep well knowing that much.
Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: baby blog, baby nap station, bed, blanket, Christmas, dad, dad from day one, Lamaze, Monday, parenting, pet bed, sleeping, sock monkey, Walgreens
Monday, April 26th, 2010
I’m catching up on all the sleep I haven’t missed yet.
By far, the most reoccurring advice I’ve been receiving is this: “Get all the sleep you can now, because you won’t be getting much when the baby gets here.” Noted. So I’ve been getting to bed around 9:30 or 10 for the last couple of weeks. My body allows me to fall asleep instantly, perhaps as a courtesy, knowing what’s to come.
If I’ve got an advantage over this up-and-coming sleep deprivation issue, it’s this: I function best on 5 and a half hours of sleep, not 7 or 8 like most people. In college, I typically went to bed at 3:30 AM and woke up at 9:00. Graduated on the Dean’s List.
And here’s why I’m better on less sleep: I function at best, in general, when I am thrown into stressful situations. Having a task at hand, in addition to less mental and physical rest, equals me in my prime. Which also explains why I write “an excessive number of posts every month” (Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground). I’m not good at sitting idle, because that’s the one thing that truly stresses me out, in a bad way (Rubik’s Cube Syndrome).
I am at my worst when I have no project going on, no deadline to meet, nothing new to contribute to society. Aimlessness and restlessness are synonyms for hell.
Of course, because I also so strongly believe in working smart, not hard (The Modern Day Tortoise), and because my organic lifestyle isn’t limited to my eating habits, we’re choosing to try an unpopular, traditional approach to helping Baby Bean sleep comfortably at night. The baby shall sleep near us, in the same bedroom.
Because if it means the baby cries less in the middle of the night, I’m all for it.
We have some cool friends that did this with their first daughter, and not only did they have limited instances of the baby waking up and crying during the night, but now (at around 1 year and half old) she decided she wanted to sleep in her own bedroom, in her own bed. It worked for that family, hopefully it will work for ours.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: