23 steps to put down a sleeping baby

I’m a rational person, so I believe in cause and effect. Even more than that, I believe in processes. (No one would ever guess that I manage projects, eh?) Things should be able to be broken down into steps and solutions. Give me a problem, and I will try to find the optimal solution. I know it drives Jyotsna crazy at times, especially when I’m trying to solve things that she’s just venting about.

But that rationality hits a big wall with Annika, specifically trying to figure out what we need to do to comfort her. Pre-kid, it seemed like there *should* always be an antidote to a cry. She’s either wet/dirty, hungry, tired, or somehow uncomfortable, right? Just figure out what button to push, and you have a happy kid, right?

Riiiiiight. Post-kid, I know sometimes figuring out the reason is akin to meteorology. (“It’s cloudy with a chance of poop tonight, with torrential cries in the middle of the night. Chance of sleep, 30 percent.”) Being a parent is an exercise in letting go of what “should be” to “what is”.

But as time goes on, I’m observing and noting the things that work and the things don’t don’t. I’m acutely aware this is all highly variable – what works now won’t work next week. I tend to get the evening duty and put her down at night after her evening feed (although tonight she went down on her own accord with just a short amount of protest crying, which is a breakthrough. Are we turning another corner? Time will tell…) I’ve had many hours to think about this though over the many eves though, and in my head I’ve pieced together the steps necessary for a successful Annika put down at night:

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1. Evening massage (and if appropriate, bath). She loves her evening massage. It calms her down and is the genuine highlight of all of our days.

2. Room: the 15 watt light is dimmed and covered so there’s barely light to see. Look at the temperature gauge and if its above 75, a light fan might be in order.

3. Best body position: her head cupped in my right hand, and her body laying (lying? Damn it, I knew this back when I took the SATs…) on my left forearm.

4. Make sure she’s in a tight swaddle. Best if she’s swaddled during the last part of her feed – that way she can transition right to sleep.

5. If she’s not exactly sleepy, a fairly vigorous motion up and down coupled by loud “shhing” works wonders. She might fight it at first, but paradoxically it quiets her down and makes her drowsy. Dr. Karp’s “Happiest Baby in the Block” may be a bloated piece of poorly-written repetitious self-congratulatory hokum, but the principles are sound.

6. Do this from the glider or other sitting position, so you can use the gliding motion along with the up and down motion. Every bit of motion helps with this one.

7. Push her head forward onto the swaddle so that her chin is touching the swaddle. For some reason that seems to activate her more sleepy buttons, and sets you up for the next steps.

8. As she closes her eyes, slow down the vigor of the up and down motions. If she starts to stir, start back up again.

9. If she continues to sleep, move your left forearm lower, so that your palm moves from her upper back to the butt. Again, if she stirs move it back and backtrack into the up and down motion if necessary.

10. If she’s still sleeping, get up oh so slowly. Swiftness here often leads going back to step 1 or 2.

11. Walk slowly to the crib, and stand by it. This is usually the point where I realize I forgot to turn on the humidifier/white-noise-generator, and I attempt to turn it on with my foot, spilling a few cups of water in the process and waking Annika up. Go to Jail, Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

12. ou are now standing in front of the crib, with a sleeping Baby. If you’re lucky you started this around 7pm and its now 7:15-7:20pm.

13. Move your hand from under Annika’s head to just above her ears. This is all to prepare yourself for the release, which is the most crucial move of the whole operation. Everything is prelude to this.

14. With her against you, switch your left arm so that instead of resting beneath her, you swivel your arm so that you’re carrying her, like you’re halfway to tucking her under the arm. Again, this is to prepare for the release. There are nights that I forgo this depending on how fussy she is. She sleeps much better on the arm, but getting your arm out from underneath her is much more tricky later.

15. Wait until she goes through several cycles of nose breathing. She’s a noisy breather, so you can hear her breathing through her nose. Do not attempt to move her when she’s in this state, because it’s a lighter state of sleep and from there she can either go deeper, or do a strange wiggle move and grimace, coupled with a grunty cute sound that is at the same time endearing and exasperating. If you hit the wiggle and stir, rock and sush her again until you’re back to step 12.

16. Once she’s settled in this position, and you’ve overcome the fear of what’s about to come, begin the lowering. Slowly, from your hips, lower her into the crib. KEEP THE CHIN ON THE SWADDLE! This is key, I’m finding. It seems as if she keeps that chin on there, she’s much less apt to stir when you put her down.

17. Make slow contact with the crib mattress. This is where you might hit the “cold mattress” problem. If so, she’ll immediately stir and grunt cutely/crazily. If that happens at any time, pick her back up and rock/shush her until she seems solid. Lather, rinse, repeat.

18. If you get to the point where you have her down on the mattress but still in your arms, you are allowed one and only one breath. If you’re willing to risk it.

19. Now, OH so slowly, move your hand off from under her scalp. Avoid the ears if at all possible, because touching it is akin to hitting the funny bone in Operation. Except her nose doesn’t turn red, but she does open her eyes and you’re forced back to step 4. Feel each hair on her scalp as you slip it from underneath. Keep her chin on the swaddle!

20. You are allowed one more breath.

21. At this point, she will have her head on the mattress, but your left arm is stuck under her butt. If you have her arm over her, it’s much simpler to slide out from under. If you have her *on* your arm, you’re going to have to use your now free other hand to lift her bottom slightly, so that you can move your stuck hand out. If you do this, you need to gingerly let down her bottom to the mattress, careful not to touch her feet through the swaddle. Doing so is akin to hitting a chute in “Chutes and Ladders.” (There is a reason I hated that game.)

22. Look at the clock and note that it is now 8:30pm. Go outside the room, close the door and turn on the monitor. Go downstairs with the monitor, breathe a sigh of relief, and try to enjoy dinner.

23. At 8:47pm, you hear a cry from the monitor and you look at your wife as you simultaneously hope the other gets her. Go to step 1.

A geekier version of me would make a flowchart.

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