October 20, 2009

Tactical Parenting 1

Filed under: interfaces,life,parenting,science,toys — mhoye @ 1:32 pm

You Are Interrupting My Fun Again

Rattling this out quickly before it escapes me; this is going to be part of a larger thing I’m writing but I’ve got some friends who will need this soon. So for now, two things.

First of all, bedtime: in the first six to eight weeks, they’ll sleep, wake up and poop wherever and whenever they want. Which isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong – they’ll need to be fed and held at all hours of the night, which is grinds you right down – but it’s also uncomplicated. Feed me, burp me, change me, hold me, that’s about it, but it’s 100% on their schedule, not yours. If it’s any consolation, you probably won’t remember this part all that well. If you did, vividly, then you probably wouldn’t have any more; selection pressure is home to some perverse incentives, and this is one of them.

After that, at about the two month mark, bedtime changes and you’ve got to work for it; baby’s starting to see things, to realize there are things and people in the world, and want to look at them and play with them. You should approach it like a science for sure – make a theory, test it, make another – but expect that a successful plan will work for about two weeks and then just stop for no obvious reason.

After that the kid outgrows it and you need to figure out the next thing. It’s a process, and nothing works every time; keep calm and carry on. Either way, starting the bedtime routine when the kid is tired is too late; aim to be finishing your bedtime routine then, not starting, or your cranky, overtired baby will be very angry with you.


Second, even if you’re planning zero renos or other house modification at all, do these three things:

  1. Put a dimmer switch in the baby’s room, to give you enough light to see by without waking up the kid.
  2. Put a plastic mattress cover under your own bedsheets, because the kid will be in there with you at some point, and
  3. If you have the means, replace the toilet seat(s) on the baby’s floor with the slow-settling ones that don’t slam down.

Other than that, if they aren’t diapered up don’t put them down on anything you can’t clean with a hose, ever.

Good luck, folks. Anyone who’s got anything to add to this, jump in with the commenting.


  1. I think you meant peedsheets.

    Alas I can offer no comment, as near as I can tell this is a treatise on The Care and Feeding of Alien Lifeforms.

    Comment by j2 — October 20, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  2. Sounds pretty sensible to me. I have little to add, because sleeping has always been, and still is, an area of complete failure in our house. I mean, Eric’s a happy, healthy kid, so I guess not COMPLETE failure, but he’s never, ever, ever, slept WHEN we want him to, WHERE we want him to, or AS LONG as we want him to. (I.e. at 3yrs old he’s still in our bed, still falls asleep with a bottle and with me lying down with him, and still wakes up at least once a night (though that seems, thank god, to be finally stopping)).

    But I like to wistfully follow along as other people manage to do things more reasonably…

    Comment by Aven — October 20, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  3. The two things that other parents told us that we would never have thought of on our own:

    The noise of a hair dryer can soothe a deeply unhappy baby. Or, if you’re driving 3 hours on the highway just you and the baby and she’s worked herself up so hard she doesn’t know how to calm down, opening the car windows. Loud white noise, oh yes.

    “Airplane” hold for colicky babies: face-down, body along your forearm, chin in palm, arms and legs to either side. I did it two-handed, arms crossed in front of my body, with bottom arm to brace, because even newborn she was long and heavy enough I couldn’t do it one-handed.

    And the things I’ve learned:

    It’s your kid. You’ll be spending a ton of time with him or her. Even if other people’s kids scare you, you are almost certainly going to know what to do with yours because you’ll _know_ them.

    If you believe in equal division of parenting labor, be prepared to find it much harder than you expected to achieve that, especially if you are breastfeeding.

    Comment by Kate Nepveu — October 20, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Spot on list Mike. The only thing I would add is that that it’s possible for them to get upset because of over-stimulation. Turn off anything that is making noise or light and stop bouncing, burping, changing, playing, patting, talking, feeding, jiggling, or anything else that is on your normal list to try when they cry and just sit and be still with maybe some ever so soft rubs or hair/head stroking – or just put them down and go into another room. Be patient. It can take a bit of time to wind down after the slew of antics that makes up the first round of attempts to help them.

    The bit about finding something that works only to have it change again was certainly true for us. Although you’ll be happy to know that, at least in our case, the time spent in the routine got longer each time while the time spent fumbling around for the next one remained relatively short/fixed. It certainly helps to know that it can happen though. It’s horrible each time.

    Comment by Amos — October 20, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  5. It’s taken the 3rd time I’ve read this post to realise “replace the toilet seat(s) on the baby’s floor with the slow-settling ones that don’t slam down.” is talking about the adult’s seats, so as not to create loud noises.
    (The cause of my confusion may relate to failure to interpret ‘floor’ as level of building)

    Comment by Mead — October 29, 2009 @ 12:15 am

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