Monday Morning Madness.

It’s been a rough landing to an otherwise smooth weekend.

It took me over an hour to get Emory down for a nap. Forty-five minutes into what was supposed to be his nap, he lost his mind. What is it with babies? They’re fine one minute, happy and playing. Nap time comes along, and then that time passes because God forbid they succumb to the hideous suggestion of sleep, and then they completely lose their mind.

I rocked him. I ran the vacuum cleaner (he finds it soothing, when he was younger, I used to vacuum with him strapped to my chest). I laid down next to him on the bed. I rubbed his back, face, scratched his head. I tickled his earlobes. I even turned on some classical music (we normally don’t use music to put him to sleep) in hopes of relaxing him. Five notes in, he looked at me, puckered up like it was the saddest, most depressing thing anyone had ever done. And then he just started sobbing. I calmed him down again but he still refused to go to sleep. Things were growing progressively worse by the minute.

What to do?

It was time to let him cry a little bit, sob even, because nothing was working and I was growing more and more anxious and he more insane.

The next five minutes turned out to be the longest five minutes of my life. After he threw an all out fit, which was broadcast over our baby monitor as well as probably a dozen Northside livery cab radios, I returned to reassure him that he wasn’t alone. I picked him up to calm him down and then put him down. I had all but written his morning nap off, the nap I call “A Hard Restart”. If he wanted to suffer a kernel panic or spiral out of control and into baby madness, I’d give him my blessing.

And then something spectacular happened. He fell asleep almost immediately.

It has been roughly 30 minutes since touchdown. In that time I have eaten, done a load of laundry, washed the dishes, fed the cats, put last night’s laundry away, and started this post, which will probably rank up there with one of the lamest, most pathetic posts ever to make its way onto this Web site.

I feel so heartless letting him cry! But if he were a daycare baby, certainly this would have happened by now, right? Are there tricks I’m unaware of? Booze in the baby bottle?

MmmmmMMmmmm booze.


  1. This post is amazingly worth it as a glimpse into the life of new parents, AND because you used ‘kernel panic’ to describe an infant meltdown!


  2. I agree with tobyjoe – I heart the kernal panic reference and hard restart.


  3. The sleep thing is such a touchy subject I hate to even weigh in, but my honest advice is, have a bedtime/naptime routine, and let him cry. It will only take a few times before he gets the message. Look at it this way – you’re teaching him to sleep. And that’s one of the most important skills a person can possess. The booze is for you – while you are listening to him wail.


  4. I don’t have kids yet but I will say that when I babysit my nephew I am left explicit instructions not to go to him if he pitches a fit after being put to bed. The thing is, generally my nephew is a low key kid who goes to sleep easily and follows a routine, but he too once in a while chucks a baby fit for no apparent reason.

    My brother knows me well enough to leave me those explicit instructions because I’ll tell you, 9 times out of 10 I’m sitting on the floor outside his nursery while he wails away inside wondering really, how would my brother KNOW if I went in there and just held him for a little while? I mean, how can I sit here and listen to him scream like this, clearly he’s distraught!

    The few times that I haven’t been able to resist have resulted in me going in there and succesfully playing the role of complete and total sucker. The kid never goes back to sleep, regardless of how much rocking, singing, rubbing, or pacing I do. He’s always just thrilled ot pieces that someone has answered is call to come in and distract him. Ugh. So then I wind up with an overexhausted kid on my hands a couple of hours later and then it’s really out of control because he’s beyond the point where he’s able to calm himself down long enough to fall asleep. Lesson learned I guess. Baby 100, Me 0.

    So anyway, I don’t know what it’s like to wrangle a baby day in and day out but props to you for being way less of a sucker than me :)


  5. Sorry for the double post, I just wanted to say that I also used to nanny for a little girl and her parents gave me the opposite instruction – if she cries after being put down for a nap, go in to her and see what you can do to soothe her. She was the total opposite of my nephew, you’d go in to her, pick her up or just rub her back and hum to her for a minute or two and she would settle right down.

    Like I said, I don’t have a kid, but I’m around enough parents to know what kind of a bizarre war of opinions this whole sleep thing can ignite and it is my completely unprofessional and not terribly knowledgable opinion that how you deal depends on the kid entirely and as the mom I’d say that there ain’t a person on earth more qualified than you to decide what your kid needs. The end.


  6. Yeah, I’ve been letting Ellie cry for short periods since she was about three months old and it became totally clear that she a) desperately needed to nap, and b) had no idea how to make herself fall asleep by herself (except, weirdly, at night). I armed myself with two sleep books, the Internet, and then pretty much made my own rules anyway. Back then, I swaddled her, rocked her, played “womb music”, nursed her and put her down (a la Happiest Baby), then let her cry up to 10 minutes while I sat with her in the room . If I intervened before the 10 minute mark, I forced myself to restart the clock. Sometimes the process took two hours to get a two-hour nap. Now she almost goes down right after I rock and feed her, no swaddle or “womb music” required!

    However, I notice that my tolerance has increased significantly. This weekend my husband was home and I’d catch him running into her room after a few minutes, and I was all, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Amateur.”


  7. Oh, if there were only that one little trick that worked for every baby! My 2 were totally different and I’m sure this one will be too. I’m Usually, my mother’s intuition would tell me if it were just a pathetic cry that I could ignore or if it were really one that I needed to go back in for…needless to say, that “mother’s intuition” thing ALSO took a while to kick in and I can’t tell you the number of times I felt like an utter & complete failure. It sounds like you did perfect and here’s hoping you have more successful naptimes in the future!


  8. First time we let grace cry it out I had to leave the apartment. Brian stayed. She is a world class sleeper and I attribute it to setting boundaries and letting her figure out how to self regulate. She is almost 3 and there are times when she will wake up at 6 am and I can still squeeze an extra hour out of her so I can work out. She is starting to give up the naps but now we have “quiet time” where she reads to her stuffed animals and sometimes falls asleep but QT is good for about 1.5 hours. I really think it helps her to decompress.

    Michele it is one of the hardest things you can do but he needs to remember (and Toby)who is alpha here.


  9. I hate/d to leave the kids to cry but sometimes just found that it helped. Even if I was sitting on the kitchen floor the whole time bawling myself.

    Sometimes, if the inability to sleep seemed gas related, a good scream for a few minutes helped work it out and after a quick cuddle, sleep would come. With Theya, we had such a hard time getting her to self-soothe we had to do the routine & cry it out till she figured it out (a la Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby) and it really worked great, though now that she’s 3 and in a Big Girl Bed, she farts around in her room before she finally nods off. It’s also a pain that she’s become dependent on complete darkness to sleep well -I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to camp without winding up with a non-napping, sleep-deprived unreasonable child.

    So far, Lochren has been amazing. At 11 weeks I can (usually) put him down on our bed awake (though definitely ready for sleep) and he’ll drift off on his own. It’s scary, actually.

    A neighbor once told me a friend of hers left her kid to cry and later came in to find he’d broken his arm on the crib (?!) and since then told everyone never to let their kids cry. I find the “I can’t fall asleep and I want some company!” cry and the “OMG I’M HURT!!” cry to be very, very different so I’m not sure if I believe the story.

    So, um, yeah. Bring on the wine.


  10. I totally feel you on this one. Adeline got into the habit of being rocked to sleep. I guess we didn’t put the kibosh on that one soon enough, since it’s kind of a habit for her now. I try to put her down when she’s sleepy, but not quite asleep yet. She will always cry when I initially set her down, but I just stroke her head for a moment, smile at her, and then walk away. She sometimes fusses for a few minutes, but I don’t go back in unless she’s actually crying. Even then, I usually just put her nuk back in her mouth and try stroking her head again. If she’s in total meltdown mode, I pick her up and sway back and forth for a minute or so, then lay her back down again. Every baby is completely different.

    Don’t feel heartless for letting him cry. You’re his mama, you know him better than anyone, and you know what he is capable of handling. A few minutes of crying here and there won’t hurt him, even though you can feel your heart breaking while listening. I think it hurts us moms more than it hurts our babies. :)


  11. At nearly 11 months, we’re still figuring this one out. Just so you know. :)

    We’ve somehow managed to developed an awesome bedtime routine, one that works like magic without crying or fussing and with 12 hours of sleep. I don’t think we had much to do with it (it’s all about the baby) but I do think the consistency helps—bedtime comes, I sing a bedtime song, we do a final diaper change and get her PJs on, read a story… I put her down and say goodnight, and turn out the light. That’s it. No crying! Sometimes she’ll talk to herself for a few minutes, but it’s usually quiet for nearly 12 hours.

    Naptime is another story. Naptime is almost always a battle. We’ve tried adopting a naptime routine (like bedtime, but shorter), tried rocking, singing, shushing, etc… Nothing works consistently. Our babysitter has the best luck, but even she isn’t foolproof. The only thing that I’ve found will absolutely get her to sleep with minimum fuss is to lay down with her myself. Which means that when I’m home, I’m taking 3 naps a day! But no matter what, our girl will not sleep for more than 40 minutes. That’s her napping limit.

    I’m not generally a fan of “cry it out”, but I have noticed that there are times when she’s just mildly complaining and if I ignore her she’ll fall asleep… and other times when she gets really upset and no amount of soothing or ignoring will work, I just have to give up on napping for the time being and try again later when she’s more calm.

    A lot of this is just trial and error… and the most frustrating part is that just as soon as you think you’ve figured out a schedule or routine, things change. Hopefully it will help to know that you’re not alone! Definitely try different techniques and see what works better for you.


  12. On the other side of the coin…I tried to let my son CIO for periods of time, at different ages. It didn’t work for us. Around about 1 year of age, he just got to the maturity level where he could fall asleep on his own if I put him down awake. But it did take a year of soothing. And it doesn’t always work, depending on how wired he is, or if he is really sick, he needs more cuddling before bed.

    If I had to go back and do it over..I wouldn’t do anything different. I enjoyed the cuddles before sleep.


  13. I was a stay at home mom and when my son was a baby (up to 6 months), it felt like I would spend all day rocking him or trying to get him to nap. I didn’t have it in me at that point to let him cry it out. After he turned 6 months, we had had it and started letting him cry it out one nap at a time. Sure, I’d go check on him every 5 min and then longer and longer, but it did the trick. He took longer naps (went from 20 min to over an hour) and we all regained our sanity. At night if and when we woke up, I would go in and nurse him back to sleep or my husband would rock him, and he did well. He is now 21 months and he is a great sleeper. To this day, I say crying it out is one of the best things we have done for him and ourselves. It’s hard and you need to be ready to do it though. And you need to be consistent. Good luck with whatever you choose to do. Being a stay at home mom to an infant is hard.


  14. Thanks, everyone for your comments. It’s been a long day. I think Emory is working out some brain activity he never knew before. He’s changed – for the absolute better – but he’s changed nonetheless. He’s a lot more aware of things, which is why today I felt better letting him cry a little bit. I usually do everything in my power to sooth him. Hell, my every day existence is making sure he’s happy and content. He’s like the most finicky boss I ever had. I worked with an angry gay man who spoke very little English. THAT was much easier than this.

    SO, yeah.

    Carrie, thanks for your comment. It’s funny, Emory sleeps for very short intervals now (tops? 40 minutes. Usually 20.) I would love for him to sleep longer not only for my sanity but because he’s SO MUCH happier if and when he does. (IF I sleep with him or next to him, he’ll sleep for a lot longer, that’s how I know.)

    Anyway, thanks, everyone. And I think you’re right, every baby is different. I’ll just go with it.


  15. My parents let me cry when I was a baby, too. Eventually I moved about as far away on the globe as possible just to get away from them.

    Just some food for thought…


  16. I had been hoping that this discussion would not end up like every other discussion I have seen on this topic (my way is the right way, your way is sinful and evil), but whatever….

    My two cents? Though it sounds like a cliche by now, the phrase “every baby is different” is 100% true. I’d been around enough of my nieces/nephews/cousins/etc. to know this to be true, even before I had my own little bundle of joy. I have seen some techniques work wonders with other babies that my son looked upon with disdain, and vice versa.

    My child is my child, and I know in my heart that I am doing the very best that I can for him. I know him better than anyone else. I have decided that other peoples’ opinions of how I should raise him are just that…other peoples’ opinions.


  17. My brother just had three sleepless days with his 18-month-old. No explanation, just didn’t want to sleep, began to scream whenever he or his wife left her alone. She finally just wore herself out—but not before wearing them out.

    My mom has a story she loves to tell about me and a stunt like this. My act was to scream myself blue in the face and then, if she hadn’t returned, throw up in the crib—at which point she invariably came running. Exhausted and desperate, she took me to the pediatrician, a big, old, white-haired Marcus Welby type. Let him sleep in it, the doc said. Next night my moms stood outside the bedroom door chewing her hand off to keep from going in. I did all the usual business: wailing which became screaming which became gagging, then finally the tossing of my infant cookies. She stayed out. Very shortly I was snoozing, face down in baby puke.

    I never did it again.


  18. I have a baby boy just about Emory’s age. I have to say, I took a bit of offense to your comment about “if he were a daycare baby this would have happened by now.” I went back to work when Tony was three months old and he goes to daycare 4 days a week. I have to be honest, they NEVER let a baby in my son’s daycare (he is one of six babies with three caregivers). One baby crying can upset the whole room so you’d be amazed at how quickly, calmly and efficiently they soothe the children. My husband, mother, and I all pick Tony up, unnanounced at various points during the day, and none of us have ever, ever seen a baby let to squall unconsoled.

    Sorry if this sounds defensive, but I do get irked when the myth of a squalling baby left to sit in a crib in daycare is perpetuated when it really isn’t the case at all. I know, my kid is in daycare.


  19. First of all, Patty. I wrote ” But if he were a daycare baby, certainly this would have happened by now, right?” It was a question, not a comment. So, you are obviously very sensitive regarding this matter.

    Also, I am happy your daycare has that many people working there so that babies don’t ever cry but the same simply cannot be said for every daycare, especially in a city where daycares are few and far between. (Affordable ones anyway.) So, I am happy for you and your son and the other babies at your daycare. But I gotta tell you, if that sentence irked your or set you off in any way, you might want to avoid this web site; it gets FAR worse than that. (Although, not intentionally. I don’t try and piss people off.) This won’t be the last time I annoy you since this was a fairly simple (and harmless) comment.

    Again, I am very happy you found such an attentive daycare.


  20. Thanks for writing back. I apologize for sounding so defensive, I think working Mom guilt can kick in strongly and unexpectedly. Thank you for reminding me that we are are indeed VERY lucky to have found accredited, caring daycare here in New York City where you are very right, it can be difficult. This city ain’t for wimps!


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