23 January 2012


Hello, I am writing to you know from a state of total exhaustion. We stayed at Keith's parents' house last night, where Jasper tends to sleep poorly. I haven't figured out exactly why this is, but a big chunk of it must be my unwillingness to let him cry himself back to sleep in other people's houses (my own parents' excluded). (Sorry mom and dad.) To my knowledge he has never woken anyone up but me, but it still makes me uncomfortable, so last night I schlepped him into our bed, where he spent the night waking up every hour to torture us. Fun.

But usually things are pretty smooth. He goes to bed easily around 8 and sleeps until anywhere from 6 (sigh) to 8:30 (yay!) This was not always the case, and I know there are at least a few people out there who aren't enjoying this same level of luxury, so I thought I'd pass on some of the advice that helped me through our darkest moments.

1. "We co-slept with each of them until they were around eight or nine months old, then we did end up letting them cry it out when we moved them into their cribs."

If you pour, like I did, over parenting books, articles, and websites, you might find two basic schools of thought about sleep. The first is that it's best to lay down the law and make sure your infant learns how to sleep on their own right away and through the night soon after. Otherwise they'll be in your bed until they leave for college. This view seems a little harsh to me, and also like a pain in the ass. Did they expect me to actually get out of bed to feed and/or comfort a baby in the middle of the night? Pass.

The other option is to co-sleep. According to the literature, this means sharing a "family bed," where you, your partner, your infant, your toddler, your 10-year-old, and pet lizard all sleep blissfully in one big bed. This option seemed a little hippy-dippy, but also kind of nice. Nice, until Jasper got a little older and started scratching and biting me and kicking Keith in the head throughout the night. That was not very cozy or restful at all.

So to hear that some families borrowed a little from each school of thought based on their own needs was a huge revelation to me. I loved co-sleeping, but there got to be a point where it wasn't working for anyone. Before this ridiculously simple revelation, I felt like we had spoiled Jasper beyond repair and that I would just have to resign myself to a life with no sleep. Post-revelation, I realized that we could move him into a crib when we were all ready, and didn't have to literally "go by the book." So that was step one.

2. "Go for the low-hanging fruit."

Once I was finally emotionally ready to move Jasper into his crib, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do. Let him scream all night? Comfort him whenever he woke up? The first option proved to be too much for our delicate sensibilities and the second turned out to be rather ineffective. So I asked a pediatrician what to do, and she told me to go for the low-hanging fruit.

We decided on baby steps, so to speak. Jasper still needed to be rocked to sleep, so the plan was to rock him until he became verrrrry sleepy, at which point I could set him in the crib where he would presumably put up a sleepy little fight and doze off seconds later.

That is not what happened at all. In fact, that's a lot closer to how things are now after weeks and then months of hard work. But I kept going for lower and lower hanging fruit until something worked. I won't go into the details of the elaborate routines I concocted, but the gist is that these routines got shorter and shorter as time went on, until I finally got to the short routine we have now.

It was nice to get him to sleep without having him cry it out every night, but eventually I did let him cry in the middle of the night. I was going through my whole song and dance every time he woke up until I realized that I could either let him cry or check myself into a mental institution. After about two nights of letting him cry himself back to sleep, he started sleeping through consistantly (with exceptions, like last night). It wasn't a tearless method, but I think it could have been much worse.

3. Talk (honestly) with other parents.

I love bragging about my kid as much as the next guy, but there comes a time in every parent's life when we need to hear that we're not alone for the more frustrating times. For example - in one of my darkest moments I actually took five minutes to list to Keith every child Jasper's age who I was absolutely positive had no problems sleeping, ever. Every kid we know that is Jasper's age made the list.

The next day I did the only thing I could think of - I wrote a frustrated plea for advice on Facebook, and was delighted to find something much better. Commiseration.

My Facebook support system can be especially helpful to me since most of the people we see socially (IRL) are not parents themselves. I'm not one of those "just you wait" people who scoffs at everything non-parents say, but there are times when it's just better to talk to an actual parent. Think back to your pre-parenting days. Can't you just hear yourself thinking "I would never let that happen"? Yeah, well...just you wait.


  1. love this post next time i see you you HAVE to give me advice we are still in the tortured state of rocking..at times i love it other times its beyond terrible...i am not brave and can't let him cry...help me grow balls please..we desperatly need relief!

  2. I will definitely explain some of our routines with Jasper next time we see you. I think I only grew balls because we're getting married in May and I was like "well, we can either keep rocking him or we can go on a honeymoon..." We chose honeymoon.