First off, there are at least two (thousand) conflicting opinions on whether you should ever wake a baby. Do you wake him so he will be on a regular feeding schedule, or do you “never wake a sleeping baby” (see chapter on knockers to determine if you have a high enough pain threshold)? In the end I think you do whatever makes it so you and your baby both come out alive and healthy in the end. No matter what you do, there will be some portion of your parenting that you will realize later would have been so much better had you done it differently. So, give yourself a break and just do the best you can.
So, you’ve freed yourself from the impending guilt, that comes with knowing there is a right way to parent (ya, right!). Now you need to get your child to sleep; otherwise what to do when he or she is asleep really doesn’t matter. So, let’s start there… getting your baby to sleep. This is where I come in to help you with invaluable (which, interestingly, is one of those weird words where it seems like it should mean the opposite of its root word- valuable; you be the judge)…anyway, invaluable advice.
Holding the baby’s eyes closed does NOT work.
Traditionally, in circles where Hallmark cards show highly accurate pictures of mothers and babies, lullabies are the music of choice. I’m not sure this trend is a result of any kind of research-based study or that any babies were consulted. At least lullabies were not the favorite for my firstborn. I tell you this because your child quite possibly is being forced to listen to music he hates and that is why he won’t stop crying and go to sleep. Imagine sitting and listening to a heavy metal concert if you hated hard rock… and, on top of it, you are supposed to relax and fall asleep (ideally, quickly). For Jacob, I’m pretty sure that lullabies were the heavy metal music of babyhood.
Enter the words of wisdom: try techno. We discovered in our desperation, that Jacob would fall asleep easiest if he was listening to music with a driving beat, specifically techno music. Jason would rock him to the beat and Jacob’s eyes would glaze over and he’d be asleep in no time. Try it.
Ironically, the song Jacob liked best was one by La Bouche which began with repetitive chanting of the phrase “open your eyes, open your eyes…” Neither Jason or I have any idea where we got the album, but have to assume it was a freebie we got in college at some point. Anyway, we probably still have it (unless I pitched it in my 365 Days to Simplicity), if anyone in Southern Oregon needs to put their techno-loving baby to sleep. Although, I may be able to get big money for it on Craigslist after this post.
The other little trick we used was a modification of the well-documented drive around the neighborhood until the baby falls asleep method. That was great and all, but with rising gas prices and neighbors who probably wondered if we were staking out the neighborhood, it didn’t seem like the most effective use of our time and money. So, we came up with a two for one system that was awesome.
We would put the baby in his car seat and start a load of laundry (which you always have on hand with a new baby, ready and waiting for such an occasion). Next we would secure the car seat to the top of the washer or dryer (the securing part is important- we accept no liability for stupid choices that are based on our excellent parenting example). Once the washer or dryer began, the rushing of the water and the shaking of the machine would cause our children to slowly drift into the land of spin cycles and snoring. It was perfect! We would make progress on our laundry and our baby would sleep. Eventually we got to the point where we talked about naps in terms of how many spin cycles in took for him to fall asleep or how many loads he slept through. In fact, our kids slept so well on the washer that we really had to fight the urge to just have them always sleep in their carseats. For awhile there it seemed that our kids might end up transitioning directly from a car seat to a Lazy Boy rather than a bed!
I have more tricks for getting babies to sleep, but generally they involve singing made up songs or butchering well-known songs like “Hush Little Baby” (you know, the Mockingbird Song) by changing and adding verses of my own. Maybe I’ll share them some day when I haven’t already gotten all long winded in my post. Like that’s gonna happen.