Unified Theory Of Child Sleep

I’ve had a lot of time to think, but not write, the last 3 days as we endured the requisite 72 hour potty training marathon. The joke among a some of our friends whenever the subject of potty training comes up is, “You’re not going to buy a house, are you?” Former neighbors and parents to twin boys a year older than ours first resolved to hole themselves up for a weekend of potty training they instead ended up driving around new model home subdivisions and bought a custom built half million dollar house while they were supposed to be potty training. But I digress…

Since I’m now soon to begin year two of child three, there’s one axiom of childhood sleep that (to my knowledge) I’ve come up with all on my own. I had occasion to hone this theory on the older twin boys and the younger child has confirmed its generality. In a nutshell here it is:

When it comes to sleeping babies, comfort counts.

When we first began the parenting odyssey we made many of the normal mistakes when confronted with a child who awoke crying. We tried to diagnose and treat every potential ailment that could be causing the crying (cold, wet diaper, etc.), yet that never seemed to help – in fact it often made the situation worse. In hindsight I can see that regardless of nasal congestion getting the boogers sucked out of your nose with an aspirator while you were already upset wouldn’t do much to improve your disposition. To our credit we were obligated to deal with a crying infant quickly since the twins were sleeping in the same room. You may (or may not) subscribe to the notion that twins have some mystical supernatural non-verbal communication link with each other, but I can assure you that you’ve never felt an emotion of dread like the thought of one screaming, crying infant setting the other still asleep twin off as well. I wasn’t long before I solved that problem permanently by insisting that we separate the twins into separate rooms. A little used study was lost in the process, but the end of dual screaming infants was gained. Advantage me.

As a technology specialist and systems engineer my inclination in dealing with wailing infants was to do just what you would do to a broken computer or software bug – quickly diagnose the system failure and devise a remediation plan. Perhaps this is the special gift of men to the parenting process, who knows? Often this kind of quick and decisive action would yield the most sought after of dividends – a child who stops crying and goes back to sleep. The problem was (and is) that in many cases the engineering metaphor didn’t work, and repeated trial and error interactions just exacerbated the crying.

Ever logical, I assumed that there was obviously a variable I was overlooking. Many sleepless nights (due to crying) ensued before I had my “ah ha” moment. That evening in the midst of another trial and error diagnosis effort I noticed that the sleep outfit the crying child was wearing looked god-awful hideous, and not particularly comfortable. Everyone has some outfit(s) that they feel morally obligated to dress they child in because it was received as a gift, and we’re no exception. Could it really be that simple? The child was woke up crying because the pajamas were uncomfortable? After a bit of observation I noticed that one of the twins only had crying spells in certain pajamas, and that the other one had his worst nights in “footed” pajamas. One wardrobe makeover later our life was changed forever – sleep filled nights became the rule, not the exception.

My wife validated my theory last week when she noted that the baby seemed to be fussy in one particular outfit, and that changing him out of if during the course of a 2am mystery crying session stopped the crying, cold. Needless to say that outfit has been put into the pile of clothes to be shipped off to some other unsuspecting couple.

Why ruin their fun?

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