Monday, February 20, 2012


When I turned 25 only a few days after my daughter was born the only thing I asked my family for was a rocking chair. I was a dad now, for Heaven's sake. I wanted to join the rest of the parents around the world who must rock their child to sleep. Or so I thought. Wasn't that the best way to put an overtired baby to sleep? I thought so. But I soon found out that there were more effective ways for me to tuck my tuckered out daughter into her crib for a peaceful night's sleep . . .until the next feed that is.

Routine has become a key word around our home now that we are are racing around the parenting learning curve like everyone else does. We hang on that word as well as with these words: predictable, responsive, and communication. These four ideas stand as the pillars in our exciting, new life as parents. Where I seem to think about them most is at bedtime.

My wife and I tried, and tried . . .and tried to establish an evening routine for Harper shortly after we arrived home with our brand new bucket of love, but it was easier said than done. As each child (and parent) has a unique temperament (or way of responding to things) a bedtime routine has to be as unique as an individual's fingerprint. Through trial and error and error and error we honed in on what works best for our daughter and for us, and we are now finding a semblance of consistancy that allows mama and papa to go to bed at a reasonable time again.

Our routine was inspired by Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. Eat-Activity-Sleep-You Time (E.A.S.Y.) is about as easy as it sounds. Using Ms. Hogg's techniques to support her E.A.S.Y. methodology, my wife and I have found more patience with our child and with each other, and time for ourselves again.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your BabyOur E.A.S.Y. bedtime routine looks like this. Typically, I do the nighttime feeding since mama has been flying solo most of the day. It might sound backward, but I begin by burping our baby before we start feeding. I've noticed that she takes in a lot of air just through breathing, and this premeal burp tends to speed the intake of whatever's on the menu. As soon as she's expressed her ladylike manners or shown me that there wasn't enough gas buildup to burp I lay her head in the crook of my arm and offer her a bottle. I stroke her cheek to stimulate her sucking reflex (and keep her from falling asleep with the bottle in her mouth) and talk to her about our day and prepare her for what will happen from that point on until she is left to her sleep.

Once her tummy is satisfied (generally after a 4 oz. feed), we move on with our routine as I explain everything that is happening as we go along. "Now, I am going to set you down on your changing table and take you out of the clothes that you wore today. . .What pretty little legs you have. I can see that you are tired by the way that you are wiggling them. . .Before we go to the kitchen for your warm bath, I need to change your messy diaper. I know you don't like it much, but it needs to be done. So, I will keep my free hand on your tummy while I wrap you up in a clean diaper as quickly as I can."

Having had my wife fill up the sink basin with warm water beforehand, the naky baby express moves out there, and my wife and I bathe Harper together. This has become a nice bonding experience for the three of us as we watch and laugh as Harper responds her "my-size-hot tub" by flapping her arms and legs, eyes as round as gumballs. The conversation continues here as we let Harper know what is happening and even ask her how it feels.

From her bath we return to the changing table to dress her for bed while the blanket that we will swaddle her in warms up in the drier. At this point, she is definitely telling us that she wants to call it a day and hit the sack, which we expect and listen attentively to.

With a freshly-warmed blanket and a baby to swaddle, we complete our routine before going to sleep ourselves. I like to spend a little extra time next to Harper's crib before she goes to bed, shhhhhh-ing in her ear, offerring her a pacifier, and reassuring her that after I leave the nursery I will still be able to hear her if she needs me. After a kiss and an "I love you" I walk out of her room, Harper still awake so that she can have the opportunity to learn how to fall asleep by herself.

It is here that pass by my rockingchair too, unused after the sun has gone down. While there might be rocking during the daytime while her momma holds her or I read her a story, there is much more bonding and learning at bedtime as we go through the predictable steps of our routine. There is nothing as heartwarming as the sight of a slumbering baby, which is what I imagined holding as I wished for my rocker. But there is nothing as reassuring, as a new father, as knowing that getting to that sleeping child will be as E.A.S.Y. as it was the night before that and the night before that.

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