MAMA...ooooh...didn't mean to make you cry...
February 9, 2016 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Our baby loses his mind when his dad tries to put him to bed at night. I am going on a three day business trip in less than a week. Halp.

Baby Bravo is ten months old. Healthy happy kid, eats well, growing normal, no big concerns.

He normally sleeps great at night. Bedtime around 6 PM. Typical routine: Dad feeds him dinner, then gives him a bath, we change him into pajamas, I (Mom) feed him a bottle in dark nursery while singing the same three songs, Baby Bravo is chill but not asleep, I put him into his crib, shut door. Baby Bravo will usually either drop right off to sleep, or he babbles quietly to himself a bit before sleep. Sometimes if overtired he will fuss halfheartedly, but will still drop off to sleep within 10 - 15 minutes. Sleeps great until 5:30 - 6:30 AM the next day. Nap schedule shifts around a lot but I have heard that's normal with kids who sleep allllll night. He averages at least one good nap each day, sometimes two.

Now we've been having Dad do it. Dad feeds him a bottle while singing quiet songs. Baby Bravo thinks it is PARTYTIME. Dad puts him in crib, says "goodnight," shut door. Baby Bravo is not chill and is very upset. Cries. Sobs loudly and bitterly - gaining steam, not winding down. We hold out as long as we can (5 to 10 minutes, depending on strength of crying). Dad goes back in, picks him up, sings a quiet song. Baby Bravo perks up, tries to play with Dad - gets giggly, bats at his face, blows on him, etc.
Song ends, baby is back in crib - cue wretched sobbing again.

Last night we made it about 35 minutes (with Dad going back in every 5 to 10 minutes) until we finally caved and I went in. I rocked him, sang my three songs, he cried briefly when I put him in his crib, but then crashed within five minutes.

Looking at this, it seems like the key is probably "don't cave, and make Dad keep doing it" but the little guy is really crying hard and it is rough to listen to - and very unpleasant for my husband, since the kid is thrashing against him and wailing "ma ma ma ma ma." My best guess is that Baby Bravo associates Dad with good times and fun and games (he does the roughhousing and the tossing in the air and is louder/more energetic), and Mom is more comfort and sleep and quiet play. So he's having a hard time finding the right cues and winding down when PartyTime Dad is the one putting him to bed.

Additional info:
-Weirdly, Dad can put Baby Bravo down for naps without much fuss.
-Dad used to be the Wake-up Parent. So now I am handling the morning wake-up.
-Dad successfully put Baby Bravo to bed no problem when I was at my parent's house for one night with food poisoning (three weeks ago). So I thought, "maybe it's when they can't sense I am in the house, it goes fine."
-But last week, I was away getting a haircut and Baby Bravo went nuts at bedtime (husband tried for over an hour - I put him to bed myself once I got back). So now I'm not so sure.
-Grandparents have been able to put Baby Bravo to bed without difficulty, at our house or theirs.

We have five more nights until I leave for a three night work trip. Alternate theories? Suggestions? Just tough it out with Dad handling it? Record me singing? NyQuil? (not really)
posted by castlebravo to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unfortunately, I think you've pretty much nailed it - Dad is for PARTYTIIIIME and Mom is for bedtime. There isn't necessarily a quick fix, though.

You don't say whether it's a priority for your family for Dad to be able to put BabyB to bed on any random old night. If it isn't, frankly I'd just have you put him to bed til you leave, leave, and let the chips fall where they may.

It may (or may not) help you know that my kids were both terrible at intermittent check-ins. They seemed to think we were just taunting them. For both kids, we had far better success with kiss goodnight and let them rage (we would go in at most once, after about 10 minutes, give them a kiss, tell them it was sleepy time, and leave). We ALWAYS went in to a happy smiling kid in the morning, so I don't think we caused any lasting damage. Also, all the times we've sleep trained after 9 months, the first 1-2 nights were bad and things improved significantly on subsequent nights. The way you're doing it now (try for an hour and then cave) is probably the worst of all worlds, since you're teaching BabyB that enough hollering --> mom comes.

So, dad may have the best luck with this method while you're gone, and it may work better than frequent check-ins while you're there as well (if you decide to keep trying).

There are other methods that involve less crying, that others will probably tell you much more about, but those methods are slower and this one worked for us. There is probably not a tear-free instant solution. Good luck!
posted by telepanda at 11:56 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Baby Bravo knows you're around. You were JUST there! Why aren't you hear now?? WTF mom?

What worked for me when I started taking over bed-time was having Ms Fry not be in the house. She would leave at some point about an hour prior to bed time. (go for a drink, go to the store) We did this for about a week and it worked great. 1st I think it cultivates a sleepy 1 to 1 environment. 2nd Baby Fry knew there wasn't a better option right outside the f-ing door. 3rd and maybe most importantly it left no plan B, I had to make it work so I did.
posted by French Fry at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Based on my own kids' reactions, I humbly suggest that you/dad try not to pick up the baby when doing check-ins. What baby seems to be learning is that if he cries long enough, eventually someone will pick him up, which is what he wants. Keep reassuring him that he is safe and that he is not alone, you are keeping an eye on him, but that it's time to go to sleep now. You might have to wait him out for a couple of days but he will catch on that regardless of who puts him down, it's time for sleeping. You just both have to remain consistent.
posted by vignettist at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you already tried putting him to bed together (both of you there), starting the first night with Mom being the most present and holding him more, then the second night you hold him and hand him to Dad just before putting him into bed, etc.? Just gradually associating Dad with bed time more.

Also- if you get desperate, maybe you could record yourself singing the songs, and Dad could play that for him.
posted by amtho at 12:26 PM on February 9, 2016

I love how our babies know how to control us! Oh yes, it happened to my wife and me for sure! In our case, our baby HAD to have mommy or daddy in the room when she fell asleep. When we would try to leave the room (on hands and knees even), the damn squeaky floor would give us away and she would start wailing like you wouldn't believe. what did we do? sat there like dumb asses until she fell asleep again, then once again initiated the retreat out of the room.
this happened enough times until i said f##k it, she's gotta learn that bed time is bed time, regardless who is around. It only took one (long I admit) night, but she was smart enough to know the gig was up.
Just do it. It will be ok, I promise. And maybe you could use the NyQuil to get through the night!
posted by walleeguy at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My advice: Go out in the evening. Your presence makes it harder for all three of you.
Once you're out
- baby will figure out that papa bedtime is all he's going to get
- your husband will feel freer to try things out and make mistakes without having you, the bedtime expert, watching him
- you will be spared the pressure of baby's yelling, wondering when to intervene, and besides, it's nice to have a drink or two, right?
- you'll be showing them (and yourself) that you trust them to work it out
posted by Omnomnom at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2016 [14 favorites]

-Weirdly, Dad can put Baby Bravo down for naps without much fuss.

What does Dad do at nap times? Is it a different routine than the bed time routine? Have you tried having Dad do his nap time routine at bed time?
posted by Michele in California at 12:57 PM on February 9, 2016

She's not an idiot. She knows you're there. Don't be there.
posted by Jubey at 1:00 PM on February 9, 2016

husband tried for over an hour - I put him to bed myself once I got back

Now he's learned that if he holds out for an hour, Mom will come to the rescue. Look, your husband isn't an idiot. He's a grown-assed adult. He's Dad. He's got this. Let him have this. Tonight, let Dad be the one to put him to bed. Your job will be to find another outlet for your stress. I know you don't want to hear your baby crying, but your going in and taking over is not helping anyone. I know this is causing you stress, but it's causing even more stress to your husband that you don't trust him enough to let him figure this out.

If your baby is crying, he's breathing, he's got a pulse, everything's working right. Let them figure it out. Your role here should be limited to providing support to your husband, and maybe a beer.
posted by disconnect at 1:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Reset your expectations and just go into it thinking that if dad is awake almost the entire three days and nights, doing something like watching golf with volume off with the baby on the sofa, it's not the end of the world. He will get a couple of hours here and there. It feels awful at the time but the build-up anxiety is worse.
posted by colie at 1:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

When we transitioned from breastfeeding (aka Mom Always Puts Me To Sleep) to bottles (aka Mom Gets A Fucking Break) there was resistance from my daughter having my husband put her to sleep. We spent a night or two with me in the room, but with him holding and feeding her, and she calmed down enough to learn to go to sleep with him. By and large that's worked to socialize her to Dad Can Put Me To Sleep Too, and the only time we have issues is when she transitions how she gets to sleep (for example, she went from needing and wanting to be held while falling asleep, to just wanting a bottle in her crib by herself; now she's off bottles but she wants you to stay in the room and hold her hand while she drinks water from a cup) so there's usually a week or so where I'm the only one that can manage it. But it passes. And I have definitely noticed that the transitional phases end more quickly if she doesn't see me around during the bedtime (bath -> PJs -> story -> crib) routine. So I agree with people suggesting you GTFO for an evening. Maybe stay relatively close so you can come home and save the day if he's really getting frazzled, but yeah, try not being there and see how you go.
posted by olinerd at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2016

Also, in case I sounded judgey or something - I've been there, it's annoying and difficult and I feel you. (In fact, with kid #2, I still haven't managed to stop the last breastfeeding session before bedtime, and she is 2,5. Because it's never a good time, right? So just do it. No time is a good time.)
posted by Omnomnom at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2016

Best answer: Based on my kid's reaction, it's entirely possible that it will be just fine while you're gone. My daughter LOSES HER SHIT when I don't put her to bed if I'm anywhere in the house but if I'm gone for the day (or the week, for business) she's happy as a clam with just daddy. Seriously, not a peep out of her. Same for grandparents or babysitters: her only problem is if she knows I'm around but not involved.

No mama, no problem.
posted by lydhre at 2:23 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Tonight's update:

...babies, you guys. I don't get it. Husband handled bedtime again, this time Baby Bravo went quietly and fell asleep with barely a peep. I was still in the house, but steeled to weather it out and had car keys on standby if I needed to bail. This was night 4 of Dad Bedtime so maybe that was enough, despite our dithering.

My theory now - when I picked him up from daycare today, his teacher mentioned Baby Bravo had started pulling himself up to standing and was working on it all day (!) which we hadn't really observed yet at home. He'd pull to kneeling, but that was it. But sure enough, I bring him home, set him on the couch, and he clambers to one armrest and pulls himself up to standing, beaming. So maybe his brain was chewing on this new finding and he was working on a developmental leap these past few days, making him flip the f out. Or maybe babies are just tiny maniacs with no logic to their actions. Or both.

Thanks all for weighing in. I will pocket the advice for the next time kiddo starts melting down. Which could be tomorrow night, could be in six weeks.
posted by castlebravo at 4:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

great update! when our kid started pulling himself up to standing it became a mini nightmare at bedtime because he wanted to practice in his crib. he'd go from almost asleep to standing up and crying because he couldn't get back down, and where were we anyways, etc.

after a lot of hand wringing and SO much patting and patting and patting his back in futility, we decided that instead of letting him cry standing up for 25 minutes, we would go in, lie him back down, and leave immediately. the first night we did that, he popped right back up again about 20 times. second night, 8 times. now he occasionally does it once or twice. anyways, that might help for upcoming nights? or maybe your child will never again have night problems, i am rooting for you!
posted by andreapandrea at 6:20 PM on February 9, 2016

Response by poster: If anyone should check in on this later: for my actual business trip, this all flew out the window. Baby Bravo spiked a fever almost literally as my plane was taking off, and for the next three days Dad had to deal with what we later discovered was roseola. Night sleep was...not great, but they both survived. In conclusion...

-Stock up on Infant Motrin
-You can try to plan in advance all you want, but don't assume your baby got the memo.
posted by castlebravo at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's one day at a time, and the first ten years are the hardest. :)
posted by colie at 10:40 AM on February 23, 2016

That is sage, sage advice.

Congratulations to Dad and BabyB for surviving. And as much as I really do feel sorry for Dad, because that SUUUCKS, it's good on occasion for the non-default parent to deal with this sort of thing and come out in one piece. Builds everyone's confidence.
posted by telepanda at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2016

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