Sleep training, take 1

6:00 pm

Daddy has come home from work and decreed with great importance that it is time to start ‘sleep training.’

“What do you mean?” asks Mummy.

“Training her to go to sleep,” says Daddy, “so she has a proper bedtime and doesn’t keep waking up again.”

What a genius Daddy is to think of this marvellous idea. All this time, Mummy had obviously been training the baby to stay awake and encouraging her to cry in the night. Thank goodness Daddy has thought of getting her to sleep, that seems a much better approach.

“Good idea,” says Mummy, “how do you propose we achieve this?”

“Hmmm…” says Daddy, “what is her routine?”

Mummy thinks back to previous conversations with Daddy about The Baby’s routine and scratches her head.

“It is a flexible routine,” says Mummy.

“Ah,” says Daddy after a moment’s contemplation. “I see. What we need is a strategy.”

Daddy is a big fan of strategies, for Daddy has a logical job which involves doing lots of things on computers, like checking Facebook and playing Football Manager. On computers, cause and effect are necessarily linked, and there is no such thing as a random outcome. Mummy knows that it is not so with babies, but she knows this will be hard for Daddy to understand.

“Good idea,” says Mummy.

“Right,” says Daddy, who clearly feels progress is being made. “What will be the strategy?”

Mummy had foolishly assumed Daddy had a strategy in mind when he broached this topic of conversation, but clearly it is not so. As Mummy has already told Daddy about the exact strategies she has been using for no less than five months, she decides not to reinvent the wheel. Mummy has spent many sleepless nights sitting next to Daddy in bed while he snores so peacefully, Googling how to get babies to sleep on her phone with one hand while feeding the baby with the other, so she knows that consistency is key. She tells Daddy again everything she is already doing, but this time she uses lots of words she knows Daddy will like such as intervention, implementation, responsive, procedure, sequence, approach, action…

“Very good, very good,” says Daddy. “This strategy will surely work.”

7:00 pm

Mummy has put The Baby to bed at the scheduled hour by actioning the agreed Bedtime Sequence. The Baby is asleep.

“The strategy is going well!” observes Daddy.

The Baby always goes to sleep at 7:00, thinks Mummy.

7:15 pm

The Baby is stirring.

“We will allow her to implement the Self-soothe Procedure,” says Daddy.

“OK,” says Mummy.


The Self-soothe Procedure has been unsuccessful. Maybe Mummy should have been more explicit when she briefed The Baby in the required outcomes? The Baby is crying now, which makes Daddy twitchy.

“It is time to respond with the Comfort Intervention,” says Daddy.

“OK,” says Mummy, “but don’t just let her suck your finger, it doesn’t help. Please follow the agreed protocol.”

Mummy doesn’t like Daddy’s finger-sucking strategy… partly because it is only effective in the short term, partly because The Baby becomes obsessed with sucking everyone’s fingers all the time, and partly because it causes Daddy to shout up the stairs “Just give her the finger!” which Mummy suspects may alarm the neighbours enough for a phone call to social services.

Daddy goes upstairs to implement the Comfort Intervention. Soon the baby is comforted and the crying stops in record time. Daddy comes back downstairs and announces he has earned a cup of tea which Mummy must make, for his superb execution of the Comfort Intervention.

“That was quick,” observes Mummy.

“It only took one finger,” boasts Daddy.

7:35 pm

The Baby is awake again and is starting to cry.

“Is she hungry?” asks Daddy. Mummy only fed The Baby at 7:00, so the baby cannot be hungry.

“I think she is hungry,” says Daddy, “I will make her a bottle.”

7:45 pm

The Baby is not hungry. The mere suggestion of it seems to make her very angry.

7:47 pm, 7:50 pm, 7:55 pm…

Mummy executes the Comfort Intervention, following the agreed protocol. The Baby is gradually getting calmer each time and the crying has become intermittent. Mummy has walked up and down the stairs a lot which must at least be good for her thighs.

“I think she’s nearly there,” says Mummy.

“I will do the next one,” says Daddy, “for I am a modern man so I must do helping, as long as it’s not cleaning or laundry, the football’s not on, I haven’t just opened a beer and I’m not too tired.”

“OK,” says Mummy.

8:00 pm

Daddy goes upstairs to implement the Comfort Intervention. He has been thoroughly briefed on the agreed protocol and understands that under no circumstances is he to just put his finger in her mouth until she falls asleep. Convinced that this will be the last one, Mummy pours an optimistic glass of wine and begins to prepare dinner. It is a good feeling.

8:05 pm

Daddy reappears with The Baby.

“She was smiling at me!” he wails defensively. “She looked wide awake and she wanted to come down and play!”

Rebel Baby looks like the cat that got the cream. She laughs at Mummy and rolls off to play happily in her baby gym.

“We need a new strategy,” says Daddy.





    Please can I have details of the pre-order form for daddy’s forthcoming book: “Herding cats for beginners” – it is bound to be a best seller and will be adapted for many situational strategies! Thanks in advance.

      No problem. He will also be running workshops at a school near you in the future…

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