08 July 2013

Modern Man's Guide to Sleep Training And Beyond!!!

Your face goes here!
I’ve been inspired (by my wife’s very witty and accurate tutorial) to write a quick note to the dads out there also engaged in “sleep training”.

Disclaimer: I am an average, working dad. I am not an expert on sleep, a doctor or a psychologist. I do, however, have a happy marriage with five small kids who sleep great, take long naps, share rooms and go to bed without issue. There are no books out there that will say this as blunt as I can. This is from modern experience (2007-2013) and conveniently formatted for dads (albeit reviewed and approved for family blog publishing by the beautiful wife! lol). 

  1. Sleep training does not suck. What sucks is NOT sleep training. Trust me.
  2. Routine is mission-critical. It’s also not really possible. Learn to roll w/ the punches but keep throwing punches in sleep training. Don’t give up.
  3. Sleep Training (aka CRY IT OUT) will take 3-5 nights if done 100% cold turkey. Follow process below.
  4. This effort is as much about your marriage as it is your kids’ sleep. Pushing through will guarantee you more quality time (even if only a few hours every evening and a couple more on weekend naptime) with your wife.
Rule (There is only one):
  1. Never wake a sleeping baby. 
And for damn good reasons. You will have more time for your marriage, your other children and yourself. After all it is SLEEP training ya’ll. So sleeping baby = mission accomplished (Note Tip #1 below). Think about it. This means fix your schedule accordingly. Postpone EVERYTHING in life (grocery trips, family visits/skypes, your meals, whatever it takes) to accomplish this one-and-only “Rule #1”. 

  1. Timing is everything. Sleep Training starts at six (6) months.
  2. Environmental Check. Bedroom (aka their nursery at 6 mo.) must have good air flow, be dark and cool. Completely close door during training. Keep a stack of new diapers and wipes near crib. Add substantial WD40 to nursery door to avoid squeaks. Make sure the baby monitor is on (and on the right channel if applicable). Use pacifiers that contrast (in color) with crib bedding/sheets otherwise you’ll be hunting for a pain-in-the-butt pacifier when you’re supposed to get in/out quick during Baby Checks (see 4 below).
  3. Cry Basics. Sleep training aside, babies cry because of the following: temperature (too hot/cold), diaper (poopy/wet), hunger, comfort (ie. missing pacifier). Rule out all those things just before bedtime so you can rest your mind at ease while baby does his/her screaming.
  4. “Drop & Run” technique is what my awesome wife called it in her tutorial. First, don’t ever drop your baby. Second, insert that pacifier. Side note: don’t endlessly debate using a pacifier or not; just use one. Third, run means RUN out of there. DON’T look back! And folks, that’s it.
  5. Baby Checks. Only check on the baby at 10 min intervals. Use a stopwatch (there’s an app for that). Do not go in at 2, 3, 4, 5 – 9 minutes. At 10 minutes, if the baby is still crying, go in, put the pacifier back in and leave (yes, shut the door). ::REPEAT AFTER ANOTHER 10 MIN:: I do it completely silently and try not to make eye contact. My wife uses kind, cutesy phrases/words and makes way too much eye contact. Either way, be consistent every time.
  1. Glass Half Full. Do not assume that the baby will freak out. Even if it’s against your nature, go into Sleep Training with a glass half full attitude.
  2. Kick-off. Start this training on a long holiday weekend so you've got a solid 3-4 nights w/o work in the morning (see Tip 4 below, truth).
  3. Night(s) Out. Get your wife out of the house on nights 1 & 2. Not in the driveway w/ a baby monitor on the car dashboard. Tell her to go see movies, visit a friend, go shopping, whatever it takes. I don’t know why or care but the reality is that it’s easier for you to listen to baby cry than her. When baby has finished the first 2-3 screaming fits, give her a call and let her know she can come home any time. There may be 1-2 more but they’ll be exponentially less than the first two.
  4. Monitor. Use one with the lights and turn the volume down. It’ll make the 10 minutes between checks go easier.
  5. Office water-cooler chat. Sleep training is a little like Fight Club. And, ya'll know the rules so "I won't talk about them". Don't talk about it at the office. People will ask out of water-cooler-courtesy. They ordinarily do not care. Just pour yourself an extra coffee, say "It's going great" because in a day or two more it will be.
  6. Sustainment. Babies test your resolve between 6 and 9 months. Stay strong. If you pick them up and they stop crying and look at you all content, silly-happy, s/he is fine. Put the baby down and go back to your business (shut the door, keep environment as noted above). 
  7. Prayer. Adapted from St. John of the Cross’ Prayer for Peace specifically for sleep training… This is a short & sweet one to mix in with some Hail Mary and Our Fathers to get you through 10 min intervals: O blessed Jesus, give my baby and I stillness of soul in You. Let your mighty calmness reign in us. Rule us, O King of Gentleness, King of Peace.

No comments: