Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

How to rock your baby //OR// A simple plan to solve (almost) any problem

My wife and I have a ten month old, which means we are just emerging from a sleep-deprivation coma. The first six weeks after your baby is born is like Navy Seal’s training. Sleepless nights. Emotional strain. Physical exhaustion. Then, one day, you wake up in the morning and realize you just had a full night’s sleep for the first time in months.

Lately, our little girl decided that she will not fall asleep on her own. This is a bit of a regression. She is too big for me to use my (nearly) full-proof four-part plan for getting babies to sleep. Fortunately, I am a problem-solver and she is a very cute problem to solve.

Two nights ago, as I rocked her, she was fighting sleep like Anderson Silva—punching, kicking, throwing her head back in defiance. I knew she wanted to sleep, but all her actions seemed to communicate the opposite. Why was she battling something she wanted? I tried my usual techniques to no avail. My wife had told me that she was inconsolable the past few nights. Maybe there was no way to calm her. Perhaps she just needed to cry it out.

I decided to experiment. Taking her little hand in mine, I rubbed her palm against my scratchy beard. Immediately she stopped crying. As I continued to stroke my cheek with her hand she closed her eyes. Within a few minutes she was asleep.

Problem solved.

As I laid her in her bed, I realized that rocking your baby to sleep is similar to solving almost any problem. Here are the steps I took to get her to sleep, test them out and see if they help you with the problems you are facing:

  • Believe the problem wants to be solved.

Despite my daughter’s protesting, she really wanted to sleep. It is strange how we sometimes rebel against what we truly desire. Problems seem to also put up a fight as they near defeat. They cry and kick and throw back their heads. But deep inside, they want to be solved. They are just waiting for someone to come along with the right solution and put them out of their misery. How would your problem-solving process differ if you believed that the problem longed for a solution?

  • Believe there is a solution to the problem.

This seems basic but without it, we will easily give up. I recently watched the excellent film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The protagonist is a 9-year-old boy who loses his father on 9/11. When he finds a key in his father’s closet, he sets out through New York City to find its matching lock. Despite the impossible odds, his belief in a complementary lock drove him forward.I like to think of problems like locked doors. A locked door is not a problem if you have the key. Problem-solving is the process of searching for the key that unlocks the door. If you don’t believe that the key exists, you won’t search very hard.Many problems remain unsolved because no one believes a solution exists. “Things will never change.” “That’s just the way it is.” How much harder would you work to find a solution, if you truly believed one existed?

  • Make theories and test theories.

If someone hands you a ring full of keys and you don’t know which one opens the door, what do you do? You try them all one-by-one. When facing a problem, like a crying baby at bedtime, I come up with a long list of theories: sit and rock, stand and jiggle, sing, shush, dance, talk, etc. Then I try them out until one works.I know that this seems ridiculously simple, but it is.When it comes to something larger than a baby—an organization, for example—I test my theories on a small scale. By partitioning off a small part of the group, I can test ideas without threatening the overall organization.Some “keys” work right away. Most likely, you will have to test a lot of theories before finding one that works.

  •  Expand and continue successful theories.

When you find something that works, keep doing it until it stops working. Babies change—daily. Something that works one day might not work the next. There is a constant cycle between steps 3 and 4. However, I know that our little one won’t sleep without her pacifier. That is a proven theory. It would be pretty foolish to toss it out and start from scratch.When you finally find a working key, mark it, celebrate it, make copies of it, and enjoy the fruit of your search.

I hope this helps. Let me know if this helps you find any of your missing keys. Happy hunting!

About Josh