How to get a baby to sleep
Putting a baby to sleep is a very simple task, though for some reason, it befuddles new parents everywhere.
Adam and I have managed to get Lucy to sleep for as long as 20 minutes straight using this simple, nonpatented formula. It’s revolutionary, really. If I had the time, I’d write a book about it, just so I could knock that irritating Baby Whisperer and all of her gratuitous uses of the word cadswallop right off The New York Times best seller list.
But I don’t have enough time. Most of my waking minutes are spent putting Lucy to sleep using this method, which, as I have said, is not only very simple, it is also fool-proof.
Step 1: Make sure it’s time to get baby ready for bed. You may be disoriented, but you do not want to skip this step. Clocks are reliable tools for this, though in a pinch, you can rely on that round yellow thing in the sky. If the yellow thing is near where the sky and the earth make a line (can anyone remember what that’s called?), then it’s probably just about time to get baby ready for bed.
Once you have looked at the clock and confirmed that yes, it is 6:15 in the morning, then it’s time to begin. The baby has already been up for an hour, anyway, playing pat-a-cake on your husband’s cheeks. And if she doesn’t get her rest, where will she find the energy to repeat this glorious process tomorrow?
Step 2: Feed the baby breakfast. It is a fact universally acknowledged that babies cannot go to sleep at night without a good breakfast, preferably one smeared in their hair and tucked into their folds. Another essential part of a balanced breakfast is to spread chunky remnants of it all over the high chair. This gives you the opportunity to use that crème brulee blowtorch. Yes, you meant to create glorious desserts to serve at swank parties. But those dreams are dead to you now. As dead as the jade plant in the kitchen, the poor thing.
Step 3: Have a nice cup of decaffeinated coffee. There’s nothing quite like it to power you through the morning. While you are sitting on the floor drinking coffee, the baby can play beside you. No matter how many toys she has, your cup of hot coffee will be the most interesting thing in the room, followed by the irritable (and sleeping) cat.
Step 4: Wash the baby. You would no sooner put a crusty baby to bed than you would get in your own bed wearing the shoes you mowed the lawn in. That would mean you would then have laundry to do. Everyone knows that laundry breeds fine all by itself in the hamper, and it’s senseless for you to add to the party. It’s best to wash the baby in the bathtub. Showers are not recommended for this, as babies do not yet know how good a shower feels in the morning. Sadly, you do, and you rarely get to take one uninterrupted. But this is because you are rushing through Step 5. See below.
Step 5: Put baby down for her morning nap. You notice she is rubbing her eyes. Hopefully, you have finished with Step 4 (baby washing) before this happens, or you will find yourself wondering how to get oatmeal out of eyelashes. If I knew an easy way to do that, do you think I’d be home in my dirty little office, or do you think I’d be in St. Tropez, drinking tropical beverages in the cabana? Right. I’d be rich and carefree. All I can say is to wash the baby first.
Step 6: Apologize to the baby for trying to put her in a bed made out of nails. Yes, you can’t see the nails. But she can feel them, insinuating their pointy tips into the soft, perfect flesh of her back. She lets you know about the nails by screaming, rolling over, and bonking her head on the crib.
Step 7: After verifying that the nails on the crib mattress have left the building, put baby down for her morning nap again.
Step 8: Apologize again.
Step 9: Repeat until baby is worn out.
Step 10: Begin your shower.
Step 11: Just as you’ve soaped your hide, you hear the sound of baby bonking her head, then screaming. What to do? What to do? Hurry and finish shower. Wrap yourself in a towel. Pick up baby (while the towel unwraps itself, showing the world your pale rear end).
Step 12: Put on clothes with one hand, while entertaining the baby with another. Remember, a happy baby is a baby who goes to sleep easily.
Step 13: It’s lunchtime for baby. Repeat Steps 4 and 5.
Step 14: Make your own lunch with one hand, while holding baby in the other. Explain to her that you would like to give her a bite of your sandwich, but she only has three teeth. Be firm. You already turned the dog into an incorrigible beggar, and it would be even more embarrassing to do this to your child.
Step 15: It’s playtime again. Playtime is necessary because it tires a baby out, leaving her a prime candidate for nighttime sleeping. Options include: going for a walk; eating fur and breadcrumbs off the floor; and trying to trick her into thinking laundry is fun. I recommend the first and third. I am fairly certain the second can get you arrested, and I am officially not saying whether Lucy has ever done anything like this.
Step 16: Time for an afternoon nap. You read somewhere that 9-month-old babies take three hours worth of naps each day. This means yours is due to sleep for two hours and 40 minutes, because she only slept for 20 minutes in the morning.
Step 17: After verifying repeatedly that the crib mattress does not, in fact, have scorpions scuttling about all over it, put the baby down for her afternoon nap. As you walk away from the nursery, think about all the things you can accomplish in this grand two hours and 40 minutes that you have coming. Is there laundry to wash? Great! You will get it done. Dishes in the sink? Now’s your chance to wash them. Were you hoping to finish that book proposal your agent has been hounding you for? Do it!
Step 18: Hear the baby wake up, just as you hit the bottom of the stairs.
Step 19: It’s playtime again. Although you may feel as though you cannot lift your head off the carpet, the truth is that you are really discovering how educational it is for your child to use your body as a jungle gym. Admire her strength and dexterity as she crawls over you, drooling and laughing.
Step 20: Dinner time. Yours, hers, your husband’s? The cat’s and dog’s? It doesn’t matter. Everyone’s hungry. Brown pellets all around, unless your husband is cooking, in which case dinner will be very tasty.
Step 21: Bedtime is finally here. That moment you’ve been working toward all day, so you need to prop your eyelids open so that you can enjoy it. Once your eyelids are open, simply hand the baby over to her Daddy. He will take her upstairs, change her diaper, put on her jammies, and then perform what he calls “the ritual.”
Some 30 minutes later, he will walk down the stairs, triumphant. The house will be quiet. You might even hear the rose bushes scratching against the walls, stirred gently to life by a cool evening breeze. All is well in the world. The baby is sleeping. You and your husband can have a nice talk about how you spent your day. That’s because it’ll be at least two hours before baby wakes up again.
And you can start all over.
(Note: The books say babies are capable of sleeping through the night starting at 3 months. “Capable of” does not mean the same thing as “willing to.” If your baby is younger than 1 and already sleeps through the night, feel lucky. If not, then continue to follow these simple steps for a few more months. You’ll get there. At least that’s what people have told me.)