I was instructed to come up with one parenting hack that I would like to summarily dismiss in honour of Rejection Week here at Lifehacker. The first one that came to mind feels like such obviously useless advice that I almost skipped over it:
Sleep when the baby sleeps
To begin with, just because one is exhausted does not mean one can fall asleep on command. One way to ensure I cannot fall asleep is to insist to myself that I must fall asleep.
Secondly, if you’re the primary caregiver and the baby has fallen asleep, that means you are finally, blissfully alone. Should you sleep? Yes, probably. But maybe you’re feeling the pull to take care of that pile of dishes or mountain of laundry. Or you really want to curl up on the couch and watch a show or read a book or call a friend.
Thirdly, the first time you successfully fall asleep when the baby is asleep will undoubtedly be the time the nap only lasts 20 minutes.
Most sleep hacks don’t work
Anyway, so I reject that whole notion. Then we started talking about it more in the Offspring Facebook Parenting Group and it turns out that most tricks to get your infant to sleep really do feel like tricks. Put them to bed while they’re drowsy but still awake? Yeah, that’s how Erika ended up with a screaming, overtired baby.
Don’t let them fall asleep while breastfeeding? Sure, good luck.
Skip a nap or put them down later so they’ll sleep through the night? Hahahaha! Or wake them up earlier to adjust their nap time. What?? No! This. Will. Backfire.
Some sleep hacks are downright dangerous
Other “hacks” are so old-school that we cannot, in good conscience, recommend them for obvious safety reasons. Whiskey on the pacifier, anyone? Let’s not. One of worst ideas I’ve ever heard came to us courtesy of group member Jennifer:
This is horrifying and not a real hack but my dad tells the story about how when my older sister was born (1973), he said something at work about how they were having trouble getting her to fall asleep. A woman said, “I have a great tip for that! Just turn on the gas stove and hold the baby above it and the heat and sooting vapors help put them to sleep. It worked with my kids.” Heat and soothing vapors. From a gas oven. My dad was horrified.
Getting your baby to sleep means trial and error, over and over
The thing about a hack for getting your baby to sleep is that even if it works once, that doesn’t mean it will work again. Ever. Or the thing that does work is so bizarre and so incredibly individual to your child that it’s not something you could possibly recommend to others. You know what finally worked for my son when he was about 9 months old? Allowing him to cover his face with a breathable blanket and rock back and forth on his back in his crib. Try to find that in one of the parenting books.
Maybe you have to do some combination of bouncing and swaying and singing to get your baby to doze. Maybe you have to drive around the neighbourhood at all hours of the night and day. Maybe you have to resign yourself to being trapped under their incredibly warm little bodies for however long they like. Maybe you have to be sure they don’t cry or you have to go ahead and insist they do. We don’t know! It’s all trial and error.
One group member sums it up nicely for us: “Hot take: Some babies just hate sleep and the only thing to do is try to survive.”