Hush My Darlin'. The Monkey Screams at Night

Emory is an awesome baby. He sleeps soundly and quietly all day long. And he doesn’t cry! Which had worried me enough to conduct numerous google searches and flip through the index of Baby 411 in order to find out why my newborn doesn’t cry. Most of the feedback I’ve found reads something like this: “Enjoy it!” OK, then.

He does scream, however. He screams like a monkey. There are three levels to his crankiness. Level 1 is the flailing of the arms. When the arms start to flail, we know Level 2 will soon follow. Level 2 consists of “ehh ehh ehh” sounds. And if we ignore them, the sounds become progressively louder. If we pick him up during Level 2, he immediately stops fussing. But if we don’t pay attention to him Level 3 is met, aka Level Critical, and the monkey screams begin. And if we’re not dead tired it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Last night we went out alone for one last romantic meal before my mother leaves. She offered to watch Emory for a few hours. As we drove up to the restaurant and I put the car into park, I suggested we nap for two hours instead. But we pressed on. We ate at a place in Brooklyn called Marlow and Sons. I treated myself to one yeasty beer and we dined in all sorts of yummy foods. While we ate, Toby and I got to talking about Emory. He’s all we really talk about anymore. We discussed the Monkey Business. We joked about the sounds he makes, the levels he has, and the fact that he doesn’t cry. When we started discussing Level Critical, Tobyjoe acted out the monkey screams, hand gestures and all. He had me laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face, tears of joy.

I don’t know why Emory doesn’t cry. Maybe because Mama cries too much and there’s only so much crying that can take place under one roof. I do know that our son has his days and nights mixed up, which has caused us a great deal of anxiety when it comes to trying to get some shuteye. It also makes me cry more often especially when I’m looking the evening head on. Once nighttime falls everything changes. Level Critical is reached at quicker intervals. And I must admit we’re at our wits with the whole sleep situation, unsure of how to make him switch his days with his nights. I read that this gets easier and to sleep when baby sleeps, but I always find there are other things to do, like clean up after him, myself, and his father. Or wash the bottles that have piled up in our sink. Maybe feed myself every now and again, or pump breast milk and more breast milk and then a little more of it. (I pump every 3 hours for 20 minutes in a desperate attempt to get my milk supply up. Emory’s demand has passed my supply. He’s up to almost three ounces with each feeding and my boobs only produce about 2.5 ounces with each pumping. I have read that this changes. I found a forum for women who pump exclusively. It’s been a lifesaver for me. Thanks, Lori.)

I know I’m complaining a lot these days. Truthfully, I love being a mother and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am still in bewildered awe over the fact that this little miracle came out of my body. And he’s so perfect. I can stare at him for hours. He smells wonderful and I know that he’s the single most amazing thing I will ever create. But perhaps all this writing will one day prove positive. I’ll look back at it and say, “We had a really hard time back then, Emory. But that’s all in the past now. All is good now.” And he’ll smile up at me when I sing to him and I’ll kiss his forehead and we’ll both know that everything is gonna be OK.


  1. Did you ever see that thing where they diagnosed what specific baby sounds correlate to, aka. being hungry or gassy? My sister used it and found it helpful. I also think the lady who wrote a book was on Oprah, so then that’s when you know it’s true (ha!). You should look it up or maybe someone else here knows of this or used it?? Or, maybe it’s total bunk. :)


  2. Pterodactyl noises! I usually find it adorable when I hear them, but then again, I’m not living with them 24/7. :)

    I’m glad you guys had a chance to get out. There’s just something about Marlow that Mike and I find really relaxing and restorative. And my pre-Emory offer for delivery of home-cooked meals still stands!


  3. I remember those late night hours full of desperation to get some sleep myself. I swear that the only thing that got me through was just realizing that it was a phase and the next week the baby would be on to some other phase. Soon enough you will get him on a schedule, he will sleep at night, and your sanity will return!

    BTW, I finally have your package ready. I am taking it to post office tomorrow. Hope you like all the goodies!


  4. Yay for Emory being a non-screamer! The day-night confusion will pass in a few weeks, once he gets the hang of it. His whole world before was dark, so he’s not used to the light! I believe I read somewhere to expose your baby to daylight during the day (not direct sun of course), and that will help get him into sync with the rest of us.

    Good for you for keeping up the pumping! I hate pumping with a passion, and once my son reached 12 months, put that pump away-he can have whole milk now in his cup.

    You will be able to look back on this time, and be proud you did it. I promise you. It does get easier regarding the feeding and sleeping parts of parenting.


  5. Oh, but he does scream! He screams like a champ. He doesn’t cry very often, however.

    We’ve been trying to show him the outside world during the day, we keep him in the living room in a bassinet. At night, we take him into our room (or his room, depends on the temperature). And that’s when all hell breaks lose. I don’t think he slept for more than one consecutive hour last night. It was maddening. We’re not sure what’s up.

    Also, I keep fretting over the temperature of his room (or our room) and what’s he’s wearing. I never feel like he’s warm or cool enough. I have yet to feel comfortable about this. What the hell do people dress their newborns in? And is a hat always necessary? Do they need one layer and then a swaddle? I think I think too much and that keeps me up too.

    Ugh. When is he going to learn how to talk?


  6. Man I do not know why I did not think of this before. We used a sound machine that mimicked the mother’s heart beat. It really worked. Um to the point where she has one now that she loves – rain is her sound of the moment. Also, Brian swaddled her til I thought she was going to turn blue. We had those waffle stretchy blankets so he could get a good pull like an ace bandage. Then he would place her head in hand and feet at the inside corner of his elbows and swing her side to side – left and right. We watched our lactation consultant do it to Grace when she was freaking out and it totally calmed her down. We call her the baby whisperer.

    There is nothing like a newborn to make smart people feel like the biggest idiots in the world. You are not alone and this is not new and maybe somewhere there is a woman who just had a baby crying at 3am reading your words and taking comfort that she is not alone either. Again, thank you for sharing and exposing your vulnerability to us. It brings up memories I had forgotten about and time has a way of doing that. Take some comfort in that. Age tricks the mind.


  7. I forgot about swaddling already! It worked like a charm for my son. I also agree with previous posts about gas/belly issues. My son had serious belly issues – that was his biggest problem when he was little. He couldn’t tolerate dairy or anything that was too fibrous (broccoli, apples, etc.) – so if I ate the wrong thing, he was miserable. I know others have recommended a bland diet and I agree. Another thing that could bother him is acid reflux – particularly if he had belly issues when he was born and he seems to cry/scream at night when you put him down flat. Have you tried to swaddle him and then put him to sleep in his infant car seat (assuming you have one)? My son slept in his seat for months because of reflux issues. Really helped. In terms of temperature, babies need to be warm, but not hot.


  8. funny, because my son will be four soon and whenever i see women with infants i always say “oh, that’s when it was easy!”. ha ha. it took me about 3 months to get the whole mother/baby schedule down. don’t worry you’ll get there! emory is adorable :)


  9. We had day/night problems more with Simone than Shep. (Of course, now neither of them sleep well now so who am I to give advice.) I will say that I had to work on being loud during the day. You don’t realize how little noise you make when you are home alone until the baby sleeps all day. Turn on all the lights. Play music. Turn the TV a little louder. Talk. Take him for a walk around the block. Also, with both of ours gas/heartburn issues were worse at night. This caused a lot of sleeping discomfort. A good dose of gripe water in the evening helped ours immensely.


  10. I was always and still am worried about the temperature of the baby. When he was a newborn (last summer), it was stinking hot, so he only wore his diaper most nights. Sometimes in the middle of the night, when I was up, I’d put a light receiving blanket over the bottom half of him. Now my self-imposed rule is: if it’s over 80F inside, he wears a onesie to bed. Over 70, he wears a thin sleeper or pj’s. Under 70, he either gets a blanket or fleece pjs.

    I usually touch his hand when he is sleeping, if it is hot, then he’s okay, if it is a bit cold, I add a blanket.

    Jonah never wore a hat,unless it was snowing outside, and he was outside in it. He just hated them, and always seemed sweaty without one. Same with the swaddle-he has a hate-on for being confined, always has been. Ever since he was born, he has slept spread-eagled across the bed. It used to be on his back, now he rolls on his tummy and spreads out.

    About the nighttime..just a question: Have you tried having his sleep in his bassinet in the living room? Since it works so well in the day time? There were nights when the only place Jonah would sleep was in his carseat or in his bouncy chair. I know it is not ideal, but…it was the only place that worked.


  11. My son does something similar. He starts to freak in the evenings and the only thing that settles him is to take him outside. I can be standing out on our front step and he will be fine, and then if I step across the threshold he will start to cry again. I’m figuring out that it is because he is tired and he fights going to sleep. I don’t know if the feeling of drifting off to sleep freaks him out or if he is just “fussy” but we really need to figure out so that we can help him get more sleep.

    We go about our usual business during the day, regardless if the babies are asleep. We don’t speak in hushed tones or lower the TV, I even vacuumed beside the pack’n’play where they were napping yesterday. We reserve the dark quiet space for bedtime.

    I don’t know if you’ve considered using a swing or bouncy seat but I don’t think we could have survived the first couple of weeks without having a bouncy seat. We even let the babies sleep in it when they were having a fussy night. Not every night, but it was great for those nights where you really need to get some sleep. I don’t think there is any harm in using a swing or bouncy seat on occasion. I’m fairly certain no one has ever gone to college and needed to bring their bouncy seat with them. Alright, maybe they did but I bet they didn’t use it for falling asleep. ;p

    As for the layers, I agree with Wendy.


  12. It is so hard to read your words and not immediately feel transported back to those early days with an infant. You aren’t alone, the feelings and frustrations are universal and time will make things better. I found that it took a good two weeks, maybe a little more, to get the breastfeeding to a point where she was latching and my flow was increasing. Annie had latch issues too, mostly because she was so tiny (under 6 lbs at birth), but it will work out and in the end you’ll be so glad you stuck with it. Breastfeeding is the easiest way to go in the long run, but it is much harder at first. There is a payoff in the end, I promise.

    Someone wrote that after about 3 months things start working better and we found that to be very true. Three months was the first big milestone in terms of sleeping and eating. I’ve heard that from others too so I think it is a good benchmark. Count on the first three months being total chaos – living around the clock, not much difference between night and day, sleep deprivation.

    I firmly believe that sleep is the biggest challenge and adjustment you’ll face – and it doesn’t stop once you get that little guy to understand the difference between night a day. Next is sleeping through the night, dealing with night feedings, co-sleeping vs. separate bed, sleeping methods and theories (to let them scream or not – and everyone has an opinion and they all seem to involve telling you that you’re doing it wrong), then when they start talking comes the bedtime routines and manipulations to stay up, napping and its influence on bedtime, and on and on and on. Sleep has been the biggest challenge in my life for the past four years. My best advice is to listen to what others are doing, determine what is going to work best for you and your family and don’t be afraid to try different things. Parenting is trial and error. If this week your kid will only fall asleep in the car seat on top of the washing machine, do it. Next week, he may need something different. It is all ok.


  13. I have illness induced weepiness, and this post really got me.

    You are so not a failure and hardly complaining at all in my books. Please take care of yourself. Do whatever you need to do to make sure Emory’s OK and that you’re OK.


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