Advice for new parents: Putting your baby to sleep

One of my good friends is having a baby this spring, and I am completely excited because she is the first of my friends to do so.  It’s hard to be the only mom in the group, but my friends are supper awesome, especially my best friend, and they tolerate the mom talk and the mom outings with glee.  So since my old college roommate is having a baby, and I completely can’t stop giving advice, much less talking, I thought I would write a few advice posts.  Here’s the sleeping one.


No matter if you decide to co-sleep or place that fragile new treasure in a bassinet, the day will come when you want your room back.  Then you have to introduce your sweet little one to a crib and a room of her own.  Sometimes this is easy.  Sean didn’t care where he slept as long as he got his breast milk for the night.  Evan was a different matter.  He screamed.  A lot.  For two hours.  I would have given in about five minutes in if I didn’t call my mother, who talked to me for two hours, telling me when to go in and soothe him.


My great-grandma had a saying for childrearing.  “It takes three times.”  You discipline a child three times for an action; there will be no fourth.  You put the child in bed by himself three nights in a row; the fourth night he’ll be fine.  Those of you who have children know that sometimes there will be a fourth time, fifth time, and sometimes a twentieth time.  But grandma was saying that as long as your persistent, you’ll win.  (And you new mothers who are horrified by the winning analogy, just you wait: it is a battle of wills from the beginning.)


Now the second night Evan only cried for an hour, and on the third night he cried for a half an hour.  The fourth night he whimpered and fell asleep after a few minutes.  I assure you that on nights two and three, my mother was on the phone.  I couldn’t have done it without her.  It was heartbreaking, but I knew he had to learn sometime.


Now I know this technique isn’t for everyone.  And originally my mom suggested just leaving him in there.  (Not that I think my mom could have done it to her own child; but with distance and time, we forget those things.)  I came up with the plan on checking in on him every fifteen minutes to let him know I was still there and I loved him.  This technique is great for when the baby or toddler or preschooler wakes up in the middle of the night, wanting to party or just crawl into your bed. 


Last night Sean woke up at 3:30, wanting to rock and roll, and Evan was up trying to climb into bed with me.  I placed Evan back in his bed, and I hugged Sean and laid him down in his crib with his aquarium playing.  I wasn’t even back in my room before Sean started crying.  Dude, it was 3:30 in the morning!  So I looked at the clock, laid down in my bed, and waited for fifteen minutes.  At 3:45am, Sean was still crying, so I got up and placed him back down in his crib, turning on his aquarium.  At four am, Evan thought he could sneak into my bed again.  Wrong.  I put Evan back in bed, which woke Sean up (who probably wasn’t sleeping any way), who started crying.  I laid Sean back down and returned to my bed, where my husband sat up and said “Sean!”  He couldn’t see me roll my eyes when I told him to go back to sleep, just like Sean did five minutes later.


The other highly recommended put-your-child-to-bed technique is to place the child in his crib and sit or stand where the child can see you until the child falls asleep.  Each night you move further and further away from the child.  This is a great beginner technique.  I used it with Sean, which was less heartache than with Evan.  Of course this is a terrible technique when trying to put the kid back to sleep.  This technique could take HOURS!!  And it does.


With Evan I made the horrible mistake of letting him sleep with us when he woke in the middle of the night.  That becomes a hard habit to break.  When I was in my third trimester with Sean, I was determined to break the habit.  I began with the moving technique.  It didn’t work at all.  The night I went into labor with Sean I was still using this technique.  Yup, Evan woke at 2:30am ready to party, and I began getting contractions at 3:00 am, convincing myself that they were Braxton Hicks.  (Hahahahahaha!)  By four am, I was willing to entertain the fact that I was in labor eleven days early and that my toddler was jumping around on our bed trying to pillow fight me and my husband.  (For the record, Evan never went back to sleep until his naptime after lunch, after he had seen his new baby brother.)


So what will I do with my next child?  I will slowly move away from the crib every night, and in the middle of the night, I will check on the child every fifteen minutes until the child is back to sleep.  And naptimes will remain at a minimum of two hour crib time.  No matter if they whine.


Any experienced moms with more stories or better techniques, please comment.

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What’s that noise? or he’s just happy, not choking

There is a stage that occurs when the baby is six to nine months of old that scares the crap out of a parent.  This is when the child learns to gasp, making a new sound.  The first time it occurs the child will be safely buckled in the rear facing car seat and you, the mom, will be driving along singing the ABCs, singing to the radio, or just relishing the silence.  Then the child gasps.  WTF?  What could you poor little baby be choking on?  The stuff animal that is always in the car?  The card books left in the car to entertain the baby? An unsuspecting marble that somehow got in the car when you weren’t looking?  Or did some stranger open the car door and give your child a piece of popcorn or peanut when you weren’t paying attention?  You pull over at the first chance, a gas station, a neighborhood street, a church parking lot.  You frantically take off that infernal seat belt, shove open your door, and rip open the back door. . . to find your baby smiling and gasping at you.  Now that you have done a comic routine only dreamed up by the best writers of MASH, The Simpsons, or I Love Lucy, your child will repeat this process to see you perform again and again.  Within moments, the gasping becomes ordinary to you and returns to the background noises that clutter your existence.


Until it happens to your husband.  Then he freaks out, demanding instructions to CPR or the choking method because he was too busy doodling and dreaming of sushi during the child safety class to pay attention.  His frantic concern, distorting his face in the most comically genius-way making the baby laugh.  Your husband looks to you for an answer to this new noise, and you shrug and say it’s a testing of sound and reaction.  This time the cruel joke is on him, and he too quickly tunes out the noise so that he can go back to watching football or the latest crazy pundit on the Fox News Channel.  This process goes down the line through relatives, friends and babysitters, until no one acts in outrage and fear.  The baby loses interest with the noise and moves on to the next stunt to get more attention.  Hopefully it’s the first word and not trying to walk.


That is, unless, your baby is Tornado S.  Tornado S was not rewarded with as grandiose comic gestures as his brother because I remembered distinctly pulling over in a church parking lot to check on a smiling, living Tornado E, but none the less, Tornado S loved gasping.  It must be because it is one of the few sounds made with inhaling.  He still gasps with joy, and he is quickly nearing his 18 month birthday.  Nothing makes the heart jump into your stomach like the sounds of gasping coming from the crib.  Though when you enter you act as cool and confident as a cucumber (yes, they are rather confident) so that you don’t give your child more comic fodder, you were still mentally checking everything in the crib and in the room as you ran up the stairs, praying that Tornado E didn’t somehow get to the marbles on the top shelf of the closet.  Damnit, I knew I should have thrown them out, but they were a gift.  The noise wakes my husband up in the morning to hurry to check on Tornado S who just stands holding the railing, smiling from ear to ear, waiting to get out of bed.  It also happens when he is presented with his favorite food, his favorite toy, something he likes, something funny on TV, basically when ever he’s happy.  He does laugh too, but he always relies on the gasping.


Maybe he’ll out grow it in a year or two or he’ll be giving his pre-school teacher a heart attack.

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