Category Archives: Parenting

That Thing Where Your Toddler Suddenly Wakes You Up All Night Again

Recently a coworker asked me about if I ever dealt with my 3-year-old waking up many times throughout the night. We did! And it made me realize that perhaps we weren’t the only ones who dealt with this. I’m about to tell you what I believe should practically become a patented method for resolving this issue.

Why is this happening?

These are dark times! My daughter was a perfect sleeper after sleep training. Even in unusual situations like hotels and visiting family, she slept like a champ. When she turned 3, it suddenly changed. I am sure there is some brain development thing happening but the general vibe was that she discovered she could control this nighttime part of the world by wandering into our room whenever she woke up. Many times we woke up to this horror-movie-like scene of a small child, breathing heavily into our faces, staring at us while we slept. (I think sometimes she was nervous to wake us up! She should be!)

Her reasons for waking up were practically nonsense. Sometimes potty, which is legitimate. But most of the time it would be something absurd, like to ask about why the winter is cold or where we put her art project. Most of the time she would obviously um and uhh about why she was up and then invent a reason right there on the spot. Our stress only grew with how ridiculous her rationale was — how is she not getting this?

Aside: There was a little view into toddler “stress” that created a tad bit of empathy in my angry, angry, tired, exhausted brain… often her reasons had to do with losing a sticker or forgetting to clean up part of her room. This is what keeps a toddler up at night? It actually caused me to consider how absurd it is that I remain awake at night over an inconsequential conversation with my general contractor.

Typical solutions

Some of our friends recommended basically Sleep Training: Toddler Edition. One of them literally reversed the door knob in their child’s door so they could lock it from the outside. We actually went and bought the Door Monkey thing which achieves a similar thing. But we never used it! Because my plan worked sooner.

There are some obvious downsides to locking the door. Paramount is that in the case of a fire or a real emergency, you’re locking them in their room. Horrifying thought. I couldn’t live with that. But there’s also the fact that they’d get the real feeling that they’re “trapped” once they discover the door is locked for the first time. I didn’t want her to have that feeling. But maybe all of these risks are minimal — to each their own!

Frankly, I don’t know what else people do. We definitely looked. “Rewards?” That’s part of my method. But I don’t think that works on its own.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough for me was to interrupt my daughter’s habit by changing the script a little bit. In fact, she’s allowed out of her bed. She just has to call an adult into the room first. Then, we’d determine if her reason for waking up merits leaving the bed. Do you see? So now it’s not up to her if she gets out of bed. It’s on our terms. So her old habit was 1) wake up 2) leave the room 3) do whatever I want. New habit is 1) wake up 2) call a parent into my room 3) share the issue and do what the parent allows.

I’m not like a psychological genius or anything but this felt to me like one of those mental tricks like BJ Fogg’s idea of “just flossing one tooth.” (that worked for me)

Putting it into practice

It’s a little complicated to reinforce this change. And actually, in dissecting this change, it helped us understand why this is hard for a toddler to wrap their heads around. How are they supposed to know what is a good enough reason to get up at night? They’re only 3.

To be more specific, the rule becomes: You are not allowed to get out of bed unless it’s an “emergency.” If it’s an emergency, you can call mom and dad into the room to help you. We are talking about toddler emergencies here (potty, diaper leak, bad dream) but also real ones (a fire).

  1. So, the first step is explain the rule. Talk it over with them a lot, get them ready for it, let them ask questions. Review it when you’re driving. Use the same key word like “emergency” so that it’s really clear: things are either an emergency or they’re not.
  2. Next, we are going to reinforce it during the bedtime route. Each night before bed, we would play a game where we’d talk about different scenarios and she would have to identify if it’s an emergency. We’d act this all out while she’s laying down in the bed and she’d even mime the reactions. We could come up with all sorts of absurd things to make her laugh (what if you wake up and smell cheese?) but really the point is, only a handful of things you decide are emergencies (potty, smoke/fire/alarm). If it’s an emergency, her answer is “I can say, ‘mama, papa, I need help!'” For everything else, the right answer is “you can go back to sleep” or “we can take care of it in the morning.” Use real situations to help her understand. This was a chance to clarify that whatever absurd thing she woke us up about other nights was not an emergency (like “we forgot to put away the puzzle” or “my butt itches”). This ended up becoming the highlight of bedtime so I think it really engaged her brain on it.
  3. To prevent her from immediately waking up moments after putting her to sleep, there’s another new addition to the bedtime routine: the 5-minute check-in. You’re basically going to assure her that you’ll come back to check on her in 5 minutes. Again, getting out of bed is on my terms, not hers. So, there’s no reason to get out of bed right now. If you don’t have everything you need or are having trouble going to sleep, I’m coming right back. So just stick around! “OK, do you have everything you need? Good. Go to sleep now, don’t leave or call for us. We will come back in in 5 minutes to check on you.” Mostly she would be asleep but sometimes she would potty at the 5 min check-in.
  4. Ok, now what happens if she still wakes us up? A few options. If she got out of bed herself, you bring her back to the bed, and ask her to do it the way we practiced. Again, reinforcing that she must call us into the room first by instructing her to do it over. If she didn’t get out of her bed, she hollered to bring you in, now you have the conversation: “Hi, what’s the emergency?” and help her with the problem if it’s an emergency. If it’s not — sometimes she would sheepishly admit it wasn’t — then we “can take care of it in the morning” or just tell her it isn’t an emergency and go back to sleep. There were a few times where that conversation ended in tears but I think that was mostly part of her understanding the rule.
  5. One more mitigating factor is preventing wake-up reasons before she even hollers. As really prevalent excuses come up, we would make a solution she could do on her own. Thirsty: a water bottle sits bedside. Nose is running: kleenex is here. Lost teddy: piggy is waiting here as a backup. Lips are chapped: chapstick on the nightstand. Too dark: nightlight.
  6. Lastly, rewards. We made a tracker and would reward her for streaks. First it was 3 nights, then 5 nights, then a week. Each streak got her a Tonie or matchbox car.

This honestly only took a few weeks to begin working! And a lot of the scaffolding, like the 5-minute check-in, the “pretend game” eventually started to naturally phase out. She actually became excited to learn what was an emergency and what wasn’t! And excited to reach her streaks, bragging to us about how she didn’t get out of bed all night.

I hope this works for you! Let me know!

Avoid Back Pain While Bathing a Baby

Boy, I’m really into the parenting stuff lately! Didn’t mean for this to become a mommy blog, I just feel like even if these breadcrumbs help one friend, it’ll be priceless. Hope they do! 

I’ve been dealing with terrible back pain over the past few years and having a baby certainly doesn’t help! For me, the most back-breaking activity is bathing her. Bathing requires tremendous core strength because you’re typically, it’s like holding a wiggling kettlebell with your arms extended straight out. And if you drop the kettlebell, it’ll drown.

Speaking of kettlebells, think about how you squat with one — you actually hold it low around your crotch so that it’s within your center of gravity. That’s how you should reposition bathtime to save you from back pain. I never thought about this until I found this little-known YouTube video with like 200 views on how to re-think how you bathe your infant.

Here’s the game changer: roll up your pants and straddle the edge of the bathtub or just put both feet in. Then position the child (or the container they’re in) as close to you as possible, like you would a kettlebell. You can keep your back aligned better this way and all of your movement is closer to your center of gravity.

I use this cushion that was actually meant for your forearms as a “seat” which makes it a little more comfortable and also keeps soap and wash towels within reach.

Check it out:

How To Pick a Baby Monitor & Why Closed Circuit is Better Than a Wifi Security Camera

Boy, I’m really into the parenting stuff lately! Didn’t mean for this to become a mommy blog, I just feel like even if these breadcrumbs help one friend, it’ll be priceless. Hope they do!  

Here’s an email I sent to a friend who was (like I clearly did) over-thinking which baby monitor to purchase. Many pros and cons to consider but here’s my thinking on it:

I’m told you’re in search of the perfect baby monitor. We have the Wirecutter pick, which is the very popular Eufy Spaceview. It’s been pretty good but it has three main drawbacks — I think all of them stem from the fact that this (and maybe all) video baby monitors are forms of security cameras that are slightly repackaged as baby devices:

  • It’s a little loud when you pan/tilt and makes a “click” when the nightvision engages — it very rarely disrupts the baby but sometimes
  • It has this boneheaded LED on the front that for weeks was blasting straight into the baby’s eyes without us noticing it (easily remedied with some opaque paper and tape)
  • It needs a special mount to work with a crib because the camera can’t point itself “down” enough — hard to describe. We jury-rigged it without buying the special mount (see pic attached) and it’s working fine. 

All that said, it’s been pretty solid. I’m nit picking. 

The overall thing I struggled with was… why don’t we just use something like a Eufy or Nest cam? Who needs a specialized babymonitor? There are four things I realized, stemming from the fact that most other options work via wifi/app:

  • INTERNET – When wifi isn’t working, your baby monitor isn’t. Not a regular occurrence but occasional at home and who knows when you’re asleep. Further, when traveling, setting those things up on hotel wifi can be difficult, you’ll have to lug around a base station with it, connections reset, etc.
  • SOUND – You need to be able to let the camera’s AUDIO run in the background… that’s the key. And if your baby monitor app is running in the background or your phone locks, you won’t be able to hear into the baby’s room in realtime which is key, especially at night. To be clear, your nighttime routine is something like: 1) hear baby having a problem 2) check on baby through camera to see if this is a get-out-of-bed type problem.
  • SCREENS – Here’s another problem with using an app in the background: if you’re playing with your phone (lots of that when baby is sleeping) you can’t keep your other eye on the monitor unless you’re constantly switching between apps.
  • SECURITY – And finally, a little part of me thinks that some day a creep could hack into something wifi-enabled and watch my baby. Extremely unlikely but with a closed-circuit, at least I never need to give it a second thought.

That’s my treatise on baby monitors. The short version is I ruled out the wifi options and we’re happy with the Eufy one! Hope that helps. 

UPDATE JUNE 2021: I’m still happily using the Eufy Spaceview even as our little one is now a toddler. We just got back from another couple-day trip and it’s a tremendous time-saver to use that product over the wifi/app equivalent — you have a million things to setup in a hotel room, it’s nice for one to just work. Meantime, I’ve also began using the Arlo Pro 2 cameras around my home for security purposes. Because they’re so easy to move around, I have a mount in our child’s room where I plunk one of the cameras sometimes as a backup or when she’s home with a babysitter. The Eufy is still our “worker” though!

Here’s the picture I attached showing my setup without buying the special Eufy attachment. I basically drilled the mount directly into a nearby dresser:

5 Unexpected Things Every New Dad Needs – Expecting Father’s Baby Gift Ideas

If you (or someone you know) is expecting a newborn I can already predict that their baby registry is packed to the gills with ironic onsies found on Instagram and useless organic baby bath salts. What’s NOT on the registry are these five things. And these five things are the dad gifts that will actually be useful to your expecting father friend.

These items are weird. In fact, if you put them on your baby registry, your relatives will be perplexed. And yet I’ve found them absolutely indispensable after 6 weeks taking caring for a newborn baby. These 5 purchases were essential to my newly-“dadded” man-brain and they were absolutely overlooked by Blake Lively or whatever blogger’s top ten gifts for dad list, so that’s why I’m sharing them here.

1. 50X Blue Surgical Huck Towels

By far and away the most useful thing in our entire household for 6 weeks straight has been all 50 of these simple reusable surgical huck towels. What the hell are surgical huck towels? They’re basically just uber cheap towels the use in the ER. This may seem straightforward so stay with me for a few paragraphs…

The idea of using a towel completely changes when you have 50 of them. When you just depend on the dozen or so “burp towels” you might get in a few gift baskets, you’ll subliminally limit your usage to just the dozen. When you feel like you have infinite towels, you will finally. be. FREE.

And you are going to need infinite towels. Towels for messes. Towels to protect areas from messes. Towels to cover up areas already covered in messes.

Basically, every time you do something with a newborn, you should start first by laying down a towel to contain whatever hazmat they might inflict on your world. When you have 50 of them, you’ll keep them in every basket, cabinet and drawer within arms reach of baby activity. Use them like paper towels, only they’re washable, soft and reusable.

2. Mini “Button Lamp” LED Lights

You will be amazed as how critical light management is. Even the slimmest shaft of light from the crack of a doorway will startle awake the little one you just spent hours shushing to sleep. So, your job as a dad is to create very simple and non-disruptive lights for essential tasks that take place late at night.

Your old man used motion-activated night lights. The best new solution are these simple mountable LEDs with a basic switch. LEDs are so low-power that they don’t need a wall socket so you can affix them anywhere — both discreet and right where you need it.

These are surprisingly bright for a single-bulb running on a hearing aid battery. You’ll want to stick it in a hidden-away spot both for aesthetics and because it’ll help your light “bounce” more softly into the right position.

These are both your “oh shit” lights and your crucial partners during regular nighttime chores. Here are the essential places we plunked them:

  • In the master bathroom so you can sneak in to pee without lighting up the whole room
  • Right next to the crib for emergency spit-ups
  • Above either side of the bed so that we can feed her at night without waking her too much
  • Behind the changing table because sometimes you can’t quite see if things down there are clean
  • Above the kitchen sink because you’ll be washing bottles, pumps and pacifiers at all hours

3. Temporary blackout shades

For like $5 each, you can buy the most impervious blackout shades available and then just toss them when you’re done. These are temporary disposable ones that stick anywhere with paint-friendly masking-tape-like stick.

Like I mentioned above — you need to prevent even that slender strip of streetlight from peeking between your mini-blinds and the window sill… and on to your newborn’s face.

The master bedroom’s baja chic window treatment is not going to cut it for the next few weeks while baby co-sleeps. Dad’s going to have to buck up for this temporary fix in a few rooms. Just layer them over the terrible light leaks. It’s a little ghetto but you’ll only need it till she sleeps in a more permanent place.

4. Hatch devices — more importantly, their app

My wife and I got on the Hatch train much too late for their epic smart scale to come in handy… I remember thinking, who the hell would want to weigh their baby so frequently? Well, new parents quickly learn how crucial the newborn’s weight can be to their happiness and sound sleep.

You can do two things with a baby’s weight: 1) get a sense of generally how long they can go between feeds because a heavier baby sleeps longer (in other words: estimate how long you can sleep without interruption) and 2) find out how much they’ve actually eaten on a given breastfeeding session (by weighing them before and after).

Another key: The Hatch App

Even if you’re not using the Hatch tech (we also like their sleep light) everyone can benefit from using the Hatch app — and it’s free. You can track everything from diaper usage, weigh-ins at the doctor’s office, nap times and feeding durations. What gets measured gets managed! And you’ll like managing your baby’s stats for two main reasons:

  1. COMMUNICATION – You, your partner and (God willing) some other helper/relative will all be caring for this baby. It helps enormously with communication if all parties know when the most recent diaper change happened or how long the last nap was. For instance, late at night, if one partner skips a diaper change, when then next partner wakes, they can just see on the dashboard what happened rather than waking their snoozing friend.
  2. ANALYSIS – Maybe, just maybe… you can begin to read the tea leaves of the child’s schedule, detect patterns and better diagnose the troubles that ail them and cause all the fuss and crying. Good luck with this one but sometimes we’ve had epiphanies looking at the “Schedule” tab. If anything, it will help you estimate the number of diapers to order on Amazon.

5. IKEA smart lighting with Alexa

Okay, I’m back on the lighting thing! But this is less about maintaining the oh-so-important mood lighting in your home and more about being hands-free.

When you’re angrily hot-stepping across your home with a flailing baby in your arms, it’s a huge win if you can plop her on the changing table, grab a wipe in one hand, a diaper in the other and holler “Alexa, turn on the lamp!” If a stubborn child is growing drowsy in the perfect position in your arms, you can hands-free ask Alexa to turn on white noise to further lull her… or your favorite podcast to lull you!

I’ve found IKEA’s lights to be very buggy but cost-effective enough that you’ll convert nearly your whole home in a weekend. Once a new dad has an inexpensive Alexa device and a few bulbs installed in the nursery, the family is pretty much kitted-out with hands-free automation.

Still not inspired? – More Dad gift ideas

It should go without saying but please PASS on the ironic onesie or the plush corgi and if all else fails, buy your expecting dad one of these things:

So those are the top 5 gifts I give every dad now that I’ve had a newborn myself! People will buy a new father all the other crap he needs so I’ve skipped that important junk. These 5 things will come in true handy and are at my fingertips when a new colleague or friend has a little one coming.