One of my current Sunday pastimes is visiting Jeff Vogel’s website to read another installment in The Story About The Baby. This is the on-line archive of Vogel’s blackly humorous and cynical week-by-week account of the first year of his daughter’s life. He continued it on a monthly basis until she was four, and has also published the diary of the first year in a book called The Poo Bomb, all of which I have previously read. However, I didn’t discover it until Jamie was several months old and I had long since given up keeping track of what his age was in weeks, so I never really did much in the way of week-by-week comparisons of my parenting experience and his. Since I like doing that sort of thing, I’ve been taking the chance to do it this time around. Every Sunday, as Katie’s age ticks over to another full week older, I visit the site and read Vogel’s account of what happened in his parenting life in the week equivalent to both the one we’ve just finished and the one we’re just starting (yes, I know this means I read all the entries twice). Then I sigh if my experience of that particular week seems to have been lacking something compared to his, and smile smugly if it was better. (It’s usually the latter. Vogel’s general view on parenting a baby is that it’s the part you have to go through to get to the point where you get to parent a child, but just because he accepts that fact doesn’t mean he has to like it.)
By the way, I do the same thing with Dr Sears’ Dad’s Diary (the Dr Sears in question being not the famous one but his second son, Bob). However, I like the IronyCentral diary better, because it’s funnier and because Vogel does not subject me to repeated offers to subscribe to some newsletter. No, Bill and Martha Sears, I do not want to subscribe to your free newsletter, I do not intend to be worn down into capitulating and signing up after all, and would you please get over your own egos, accept that possibly some of the visitors to your site just aren’t that interested in your precious newsletter, and install a "Do Not Show This Offer Again" option already??
Anyway, the installment I’ve just read from The Story About The Baby contained the following anecdote, which I felt to be worth at least a passing comment:
"I have been getting our daughter to sleep for the last few months like this: First, I cram her full of food. Once she makes a sloshy noise when I shake her, I swaddle her really tightly. Once she looks like a sad little mummy, I put the pacifier in her mouth. Once she is being made artificially happy by a chunk of rubber, I set her down and turn off the lights. Badda bing. Sleeping baby.
But I started to think that this series of peculiar steps might not be necessary. I thought, since she can suck on her hands now, she might not need the pacifier, and since she’s three months old, she might not need the swaddling. Tried putting her to bed without either.
Inside of five minutes, she was crying. I found her trying to suck on her fingers. However, she was trying strenuously to jam her hand into her upper cheek, which was not leading in any way to her fingers being in her mouth. OK, that’s not working. So I put the pacifier in her mouth. Then she decided that she also wanted to be sucking on her hand. So she swung it up and punched herself in the eye. This is not conducive to getting to sleep….
So we’re back to the mummy-plugged-with-rubber sleep technique. I bring all this up because I want people to know one thing. When I call Cordelia "dopey", it is not entirely an arbitrary judgment, free from all evaluation of actual evidence."
OK, Mr Vogel, let me see if I’ve got this straight here. You were able to get your baby to sleep at night with practically 100% effectiveness and with no crying on her part, purely by the use of a technique requiring only a couple of minutes of minimum effort on your part (I’m not counting the time spent feeding in that time, since feeding your baby when it’s feeding time is something you’re generally expected to do regardless of whether it’s part of a successful sleep promotion strategy or not). To put it another way, you had a stroke of luck which thousands of parents would willingly have sold their souls to have. Instead of falling on your knees and passionately thanking whatever gods might be in charge of parenting, possibly sacrificing the odd goat to them just to be on the safe side, you decide to abandon this technique. For, so far as I can tell, no better reason than an arbitrary whim.
And you think she’s the dopey one?
As for me, I am in no doubt as to how lucky I am that swaddling and settling my daughter at night will buy me a few hours of good sleep, and I have no intention of changing that until I have to. In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out whether I can get away with swaddling her at night until she’s at least five.