Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dad tip#102: Beware the early-rising baby

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Good morning, papa!
Late to bed, early to rise --
That is my motto!
The point of this post is not to have sleep expectations based on how early or how late your child goes to bed in relation to their usual routine. There is an old adage that "sleep begets more sleep" that I believe has a lot of truth to it. While there seems to be more consistency behind that expression than the thought that "the later they go to sleep, the later they should wake up," there really is no universal truth behind the sleep logic of a baby.

(Hmm ... I was just thinking that a funny web site would be one full of "baby logic," but upon investigation I just discovered that there appears to be a cyber-squatter sitting on that domain. Too bad.)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dad tip #94: Hobbies are less important than sleep

Okay, just logged on to Blogger and discovered that there's a scheduled outage in seven minutes. So, tonight's advice is going to be REALLY short.

Hobbies (like blogging or reading comic books like Guardians of the Galaxy) are genuinely less important than sleep. So, if you're forced into making a choice between the two, you should definite opt for sleep ... AT LEAST 75% of the time.

Good night!

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Dad tip #93: Beware the baby with 'midnight munchies'

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
I sleep through the night
Last night I had the munchies.
WAAAAAH! Give me some food!
We've been VERY lucky as our baby boy has been sleeping through the night for months now consistently. He's had less than a handful of instances where he's woken up in the middle of the night and even fewer incidents where we've had to get up and put him back to sleep.

Unfortunately, we experienced something of an aberration last night. Our boy woke up around midnight and we had a hard time figuring out why he wouldn't go back to sleep. We comforted him, checked his temperature, read to him, sang to him, changed his diaper, and pretty much went through his entire bedtime routine. Before we knew it, an hour had passed and we had yet to successfully put him back to sleep.

Then we (and by 'we', I mean 'my wife') nursed him and fed him some formula; which we were a little hesitant to do since we've been really good about breaking the association of feeding with waking up. But sure enough, after satisfying his midnight munchies and re-re-doing his bedtime routine, our son drifted off to sleep for the rest of the night.

So, the advice here is expect your sleep to be interrupted at some point. And also, cover all your bases if you can't figure out why your kid won't go back to sleep. And try not to have an early morning business call to India (like I did) because you'll be tired.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dad tip #89: Babies have ESP

My wife and I have both noticed a bizarre recurring phenomenon in our household. Occasionally, one of us will wake up early for one reason or another (full bladder, hungry cat meowing, etc.) and we'll take a peek at the video baby monitor and see our boy sleeping soundly in his crib.

Within moments of returning the monitor to the night stand and laying back down to sleep an extra 15 minutes, we'll hear our son begin to stir and babble. It's almost like he can see us looking at him through the video camera in his room!

I realize there hasn't been a speck of advice in this post yet; I'm getting there. If your child is anything like ours, he's good for at least 15 minutes of solo play time after waking up before he starts to really cry out for some attention. So, if you were trying to catch a smidge of extra sleep, then set your alarm and turn the volume on the baby monitor down.

Your kid will be fine and he might even learn that playing by himself is actually okay. And you'll be fine too as you enjoy your guilt-free extra rest.

("I always feel like somebody's watching meeeeeeeeee!" - Rockwell.)

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dad tip #84: To let him sleep in a poopy diaper or not?

My wife and I just got home from our friends' wedding (which was beautiful, by the way). My parents were taking care of our son while we were out and, as usual, it sounded like they did a great job. We decided to check in on our son anyway and upon opening his bedroom door, we were immediately hit with the distinct odor of poo.

We backed out of the room to figure out our plan of action. After all, we REALLY didn't want to disturb his sleep pattern, but we didn't think good parents would let their child sleep another six or seven hours in a diaper full of poo. Ordinarily, I don't think he would've pooped his pants so soon after being put down for the night (or at all), but I suspect tonight was something of an exception because of the teething "symptoms".

Assuming that we could get him back down to sleep fairly easily, we decided that changing his diaper was the right decision. Like a finely tuned machine, we went in, changed his diaper, and had him back asleep with minimal disturbance all in about five minutes. (My wife and I are to middle-of-the-night diaper changes as Mulder and Scully are to paranormal investigations.)

After seeing and smelling the horrors that awaited us in the diaper, we knew we'd made the right decision. We also got a bonus out of the decision: seeing him smile at us in an adorable half-asleep (and grateful) way.

Perhaps the advice for dilemmas such as this would be to simply ask yourself: "Would you want to sleep in a pile of poop all night long?" Probably not.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dad tip #47: Stop, breathe, clear your head, and balance

We're thankful. EXTREMELY thankful. Our baby boy is wonderful for any number of reasons, but one reason that we're particularly thankful for is that he's been sleeping through the night for a while now. [Knocking vigorously on wood as I type.]

However, that wasn't the case four or five months ago. Back then we were lucky to get three and half hours of broken sleep a night. When you're running on that little sleep and you're getting woken up every 15 minutes, you're dangerous. No matter how careful you are, you're just not operating a 100% efficiency. I recall waking up in the semi-darkness -- I think we kept a bedside lamp on all the time; what was the point in turning it off if you needed to turn it on a couple of minutes? -- and being so exhausted, that I literally wobbled out of bed.

Wobbling is NOT a good thing if you're about to pick up a baby.

So, I'd stop, lean against the dresser, take several deep breaths, clear my head, and get myself balanced. Sure, this sometimes took a minute or two and the baby was crying the whole time, but I'm sure it was worth it.

And now, I'm planning on using the same technique as I prepare myself for game one of the 2008 NBA Finals as my Boston Celtics take on the LA Lakers.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dad tip #46: Be prepared when your baby only wants to sleep ON you

Anecdotally, it's incredibly common that babies go through a phase where they will only seem to want to sleep physically ON someone -- that someone, of course, being YOU.

The advice for today is: Be prepared. Yes yes, that's ambiguous and vague, but it should be because there are many scenarios you should be prepared for when your baby falls asleep on you. For example ...
Scenario #1:
You've been trying for a solid two hours to get your kid to nap and you've just managed to get him to fall asleep in your arms while sitting on the couch. You've been savoring your victory for all of two minutes when the phone rings ... loudly ... from across the room. WAAAAAAHHH! Game over, you lose.

Scenario #2:
You're home alone with the baby for the next four hours. You've decided to lay on the floor and bond with the baby. Your baby (un)expectedly falls asleep on your chest ... and the only thing within arm's reach are a moist burp cloth, a moist pacifier, and a moist, but mostly empty, glass of water. Now you're thirsty, bored, and unable to fall asleep yourself, because that's pretty much not safe.

Scenario #3:
You've been drinking coffee non-stop to keep yourself awake. Your baby finally falls asleep in your lap for a nap. There's a nature sounds CD playing softly in the background of a babbling brook ... babbling suggestively. The pressure in your bladder is growing stronger at an alarming rate. You're regretting that your baby is the only one in the house wearing diapers.
In scenario #1, it would've been good to think ahead and either turn down the ringer or leave the phone in a place you could reach it. In scenario #2, you could've left the TV remote, the Xbox controller, a book, a magazine, a glass of water, or pretty much ANYTHING you could've entertained yourself with closer to where you were laying. In scenario #3, you should definitely have peed before settling in.

Get the picture? Don't go overboard, but be prepared.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Dad tip #41: "Sleep when the baby sleeps" cliché is true

The old cliché advice "sleep when the baby sleeps" is typically given when your child is a newborn. During that phase of your life, every 15 minutes of sleep you can steal count.

There are times even now, six months in, where I think that cliché is relevant advice -- say, on a day where you got up early for a business call to India (they're nine and a half hours ahead of us) and the Celtics are in Detroit trying to close out the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in six games and tip off is at 8:30pm (which means the game will end after 11:00pm). I certainly could and should go to sleep early because yard work and Home Depot await tomorrow. But you're positively insane if you think I'm missing this game.

Anyhow, I got to thinking, could there be alternate yet equally sound bits of advice that I could squeeze out of "sleep when the baby sleeps"? Let's try these on for size:
"Drink a bunch of breast milk and spit up when the baby drinks a bunch of breast milk and spits up."

"Grab anything within arm's reach and jam it in your mouth when your baby grabs anything within arm's reach and jams it in his mouth."

"Accidentally roll on to your stomach and have a red-faced fit when your baby accidentally rolls on to his stomach and has a red-faced fit.

"Poo yourself and have it erupt out of your pants when your baby poos himself and it erupts out of his pants."
Honestly, I thought about this and struggled to find a bit of advice structured like this that I really believed in. What I did come up with was: "Find joy in the ordinary simple things in life when your baby finds joy in the ordinary simple things of life." Hmm ... the more I think about it, the more I like that!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dad tip #40: The only pattern is that the pattern changes

We're almost six months into our baby boy's life and we've found that the only real pattern we're able to count on is that the pattern is constantly changing. When our son was a "newborn", we found that the patterns lasted only days whereas now they seem to last weeks.

When the patterns only last days, you don't get used to anything and you don't particularly miss anything when they change. That and the fact that the patterns of the first couple months usually involve some form of sleep deprivation. When the intervals are weeks and you've gotten into a good groove with something, you find yourself REALLY missing whatever it is that you'd gotten used to.

So, the advice here is enjoy it when you've got a good thing going on and don't be too distraught when you've got something less than desirable -- like a nearly six month old baby who's suddenly decided that naps are for wussies -- because, inevitably, it's going to change.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dad tip #18: But yes the Kiddopotamus (SwaddleMe)!

Another quick hit for tonight's post, this time on the topic of sleep deprivation. Or perhaps more accurately, the battle AGAINST sleep deprivation.

When our son was about three months old we were hovering precariously around four hours of sleep a night. There were some good nights, some bad nights, and the constant waking up made the light at the end of the tunnel seem very very dim and very very far away. We tried having him sleep in the papasan, the bassinet, the crib, upstairs, downstairs, facing north, facing south ... you name it, we probably tried it. But something obvious that we'd dismissed because weeks before it seemed like something our son no longer liked, was swaddling.

More specifically, we broke out a Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe. Sure you can go lo-fi with an old school swaddling blanket, but if your kid turns our to be some kind of Houdini, you want what's essentially the equivalent of a baby straight-jacket. Keep in mind that if your child is a master escape-artist like ours is, even the velcro-powered SwaddleMe won't be enough to contain him all the time.

And certainly, swaddling isn't the answer for every baby, but let me tell you, after swaddling our son again, he's been sleeping 8-10 hours a night on average straight through. So, I'd feel remiss if I didn't throw this product recommendation out there.

Oh yeah, if you don't get the title of this post, check out Sandra Boynton's But Not the Hippopotamus. Fo' shizzle, I love that book!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dad tip #12: This crib's too far away, this bassinet's too flat, this baby papasan is just right

As a parent, you'll end up buying all kinds of crap that does essentially the same thing. You'll buy any combination of crib, bassinet, cradle, and/or Moses basket all to have a nice cozy place for your baby to sleep.

Perhaps you'll find that the nursery is too far away for your newborn to sleep, so the crib will go unused for some number of months. And perhaps your baby will find the bassinet in your master bedroom just to expansive for his/her tiny little body. And just maybe the Moses basket is too old-fashioned and frilly for your hipster baby. Now what?

Well, you may have also purchased a number of things for your baby to sit in like a baby papasan, a car seat/infant carrier, or a swing of some kind. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for you, your baby might prefer to sleep in any one of those things.

I say fortunately because as long as you find ANY place that your baby is happy to sleep, you should consider yourself lucky, blessed, and more well-rested than a lot of other parents out there. I hint at "UNfortunately" because I have a co-worker who's spent many a night sticking his kid in a car seat (yay for Graco SnugRides!) to drive around the block for a few hours to let his wife nab some precious sleep. But hey, you can always sleep in shifts! Don't give up ... you've bought more than enough redundant baby stuff that hopefully something has to work.

For the record, my son preferred the Fisher-Price baby papasan above all else for the first couple of months. Good luck!

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dad tip #5: You, too, can exercise while getting your baby to sleep

There's an interesting dichotomy to babies when it comes to sleep. On the one hand, as a parent, you should do everything you can to set expectations for your child by way of routines and establishing a general sense of calm before bedtime. On the other hand, you stick a baby in a car seat and drive half a block, they're out like a light regardless of how many people are honking at you and flipping you off. These two sleep methods are not realistically compatible.

However, the thing I've found is that even with the best of routines, you still need to endure some sort of personal triathalon consisting of some variations of rocking, pacing, and bouncing to get your baby to surrender to sleep.

Now, let's digress for a quick moment and consider the fact that in the first few months of being a parent the most exercise you've gotten is lifting your baby out of the bassinet and oh-crap-the-baby-woke-up-again "crunches" when getting out of bed in the middle of the night. If you need to simulate some sort of motion to help ease your baby to sleep AND you're in desperate need of exercise, you might as well try to kill two birds with one Born Free bottle.

Early on, I liked doing some kind of SAFE side lunge. But now, I like to mix it up a little more by doing an extremely sloppy (but SAFE) version of a Capoeira sequence known as the "ginga". Obviously you can't really do the accompanying arm movements, but I think it's more interesting than just doing the same single movement over and over again.

For the record, I have about ten years of Kung Fu training under my belt and all of one Capoeira class. I know that makes this bit of advice a little preposterous. So, the real lesson here is that there are other options than having to endure a 26.2 minute marathon of sitting in a rocking chair to get your baby to go to sleep. There's almost certainly something you can do that can help you burn off at least a couple of calories. (But don't forget the routine!)

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