It’s two in the morning and my son is crying. I stir a little bit and turn to my right and notice that my wife, Elizabeth, is not there next to me and that our son is in his bassinet, possibly the reason he is crying. My wife has chosen to commit the crime of needing to use the facilities. I get up and quickly pick up young Chaim Yosi and cradle him in my arms, rocking him gently until he falls back asleep. I know that he will do better in the arms of his mother — not just because I’m afraid of rolling around wildly in my sleep. I ultimately get back to sleep and wake up, refreshed. This beautiful scenario is not always how things have been in our happy home.

For months, people warned us. They specifically told me that I could expect to not get any sleep for a period of a few months but I always dismissed their warnings, thinking that they must have been either joking or exaggerating. Only a few days after we brought our son home from the hospital, it was made quite clear that these warnings were profoundly honest and true.

One evening in particular stands out. About once an hour, our son would wake up and want either to be fed or two be rocked back to sleep. Even though I could only participate in one of the activities, I was almost always awake for both of them — which led to me being quite exhausted the following day in the office. A few more evenings like this passed and I was nearly like a zombie in the office.

It was not long before my wife and I started talking about compromises we could make. I told her about how I had learned from my brother years earlier about the importance of one and a half hour sleep cycles. Even though I have never read anything in terms of a medical study backing this notion, I nearly always believe everything my brother tells me with regards to that which is good for the health of the body. That being said, I explained that it is better to get three one and a half hour sleep cycles than six one hour ones.

From there we decided that if I was going to be waking up at certain times to comfort and cuddle our son, I would also go to bed at an earlier time to make up for the lost sleep time and therefore still be a functioning human being in the morning.

There has been the occasional rough evening now and again when Chaim Yosi has not been feeling well and has wanted extra cuddling and loving but overall our system of compromise has worked out quite well for us both and we have both seen an increase in sleep. Just now, I’ve actually taken my son in my arms and my wife is writing these words and so Chaim gets comforted and this article gets written.

Here is the great irony of it all — I am now updating this article to reflect the following bit of amusing fact, which I could have not scripted better if I had tried. Only a few hours after originally finishing this article and submitting it for publication, my son was up for nearly two hours (between twelve thirty and two thirty) and neither could he be fully consoled by me nor could my wife sleep due to what seems to be the direct connection between the frequency of our son’s cry and a nerve in our spinal cords which gives us a tremendous sense of discomfort whenever he cries.

I can’t understand when parents tell people that they let their babies cry it out — how can you stand it? In any case, two hours later (and two epic feedings) and Elizabeth suddenly realized that perhaps he just didn’t want to sleep on one side of her — and it turned out that as soon as he went on her other side, he drifted off to sleep with not too much fussing.


  1. This is such a rich and human story, Gordon, thank you for sharing!

    When I was growing up in the Midwest, babies had a room of their own, and at night you put a baby in the crib and closed the door until the next feeding. If the baby cried, and it wasn’t time for the baby to be awake, you let the baby cry it out alone. Going in to pick up the baby off-schedule was seen as coddling and parental weakness. Babies “need to learn how to console and comfort themselves” — the reasoning goes — and if parents always calm down the baby, the child will then grow into a selfish and inconsolable adult who will only be satisfied when things go as they wish and not and should be wanted.

    That said, I’m always of the mind that babies cry for a reason, and you communicate with them by picking them up and interacting with the expressed wish or danger or joy or concern.

    1. Very true, David — I know people who were calmed as babies who now are not selfish and inconsolable and who take lumps as they come along!

      ThinkGeek has a device that they claim will tell you why a baby is crying. Elizabeth is skeptical that such a device would be accurate. I am, of course, curious to know if it works.

      1. Gordon!

        I’m curious to know about the “baby cry interpreting” device! Then we need to get a “cat meow” interpreter — I’ve seen them more sale on the internets — and then use each of the machines on a baby and a cat and see which machine performs the better interpretation! To The Reviews!

        1. From the website :

          The Why Cry Baby Analyzer is the baby monitor of your dreams! Its advanced frequency analysis technology only needs 20 seconds to let you know why your child is screaming to the heavens. Whether your baby is Stressed, Sleepy, Annoyed, Bored or Hungry, this device will identify it on its LCD screen. In addition to being very portable (adjustable velcro strap for easy attachment), it comes equipped with a symptoms chart and guide with tips on how to properly stimulate your child’s development. Not to mention being your ticket to some peace and quiet!

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