Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Last night I had a really fun wrangling job. It was for a Johnson & Johnson ad, for their aromatherapy sleep bedtime products. I am sure there is a more specific name...but it's not my job to know what it is. My job is to keep the babies asleep, in a fake crib, in a contrived position and get a perfect photo of them. Easy right?

Actually, the very first baby to go was a dream (pun intended). She just laid there looking absolutely beautiful and angelic. Each baby had to sleep on their back, with their faces turned to their left, left hand out stretched, and right hand anywhere that wasn't being picked up in the photograph. Depending on the size of their heads/bellies, this could be anywhere from out to the side, to down at their side. Baby Daniella was perfect. 1 down, 5 to go.

We had two white babies, two hispanic babies and two black babies. As is usually the case, there is the choice baby, and then back-up baby. All 5 of these babies were not loving having to sleep on a set and be photographed while doing it, so we took anybody we could get. After about 4 tries, we finally got baby Shea to settle into a deep, snoring, no-binky-required sleep, and he photographed beautifully.

The most interesting part of last night was seeing the apparent rituals and routines that went into getting these babies to fall asleep. I saw a baby with a duckie, a binky and a very specific rock from mom. I also saw his Dad do a very specific butt pat. This Dad had used this technique on both of his sons, as they were colicky infants. I saw a baby who liked to have his fingers sucked by his parents. Both parents did it. These two were working so hard to get and keep their baby asleep. The Dad was very methodical about it, and suggested I not touch the baby. Sorry, that's sort of my job, and you aren't listening to me and getting him in the exact right position. He went home.

One of our star babies, turns out co-sleeps with her parents, so she was just NOT comfortable being alone while asleep. She always needed to be touching something or to be touched. At one point we almost had her fooled that we were really her parents, but she ended up going home too. I swear if that Dad could have fit in that crib, and been invisible, he would have crawled right in. We made a note to ourselves: Next time we are casting sleeping babies, add this question: Does your child co-sleep?

Then there was the baby who was so knocked out, we could literally manipulate her in any way we needed to. At one point, I wanted to see if I could put her own finger up her nose, but the client was there and I had to be professional. She was such a nice way to end the evening. I left at 10:30 PM. Yikes.

Seeing these parents with their rituals brought back a memory of when I was on a cruise ship and I was walking on the track early in the morning, around 6, and this woman was strolling her baby in a stroller, bent over the front with her two fingers in the baby's mouth. I saw her doing that at least 3 times on the course of the cruise, and I decided she was nuts. She made some comment in the elevator: "Well, he can't take my fingers with him to college..." Whoa.

I spent part of my night wondering how these parents came up with these very specific tactics. The baby doesn't say: Mom, I really need to suck on two of your fingers while you push me in the stroller. Mom, I need you to suck on my fingers and bounce up and down. Mom, please sleep in the bed with me...pretty please. One thing is for sure, these parents LOVE LOVE LOVE their babies. I love my babies too, but I love the Ferber technique probably just as much. And my two cents: I think the best love you can show your baby is to teach them how to do it on their own. Granted, my baby would never have been able to do that photoshoot at the age of 6 to 9 months b/c she needs to be laid in the crib and made to cry herself to sleep. I never would have been able to rock her, get her to sleep and then set her down, so in the "business" ferberizing is a negative, but in the world...I think it's A-OK!


chloe said...

Cool shoot last night - I always like hearing about your wrangling experiences.

And we are BIG supporters of the Ferber method here as well - we start them when they're 3 months old and never look back!

ReeSesPcS said...

Sounds like a fun wrangling job! I'm with you on the Ferber method as well...I don't understand anyone who wouldn't want to use it and have some sort of a relaxing evening :) It takes to much time otherwise.

marian said...

I too am a huge Ferber fan, but my entirely sleep-trained son broke at about age 2, and Ferber ceased to work. That was the end of my quiet evenings, it was all screaming and crying and running in circles until midnight, or even later. It was at that point that I finally had sympathy for all those parents and their strange sleep techniques, because I think I tried EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to fix my broken child. Honestly, if walking him in a stroller with my fingers in his mouth would get him to sleep, I would have done it in an instant. I was that desperate to get some sleep, some quiet time. Eventually he grew out of it and we figured out some fixes (including drugs...) but believe me, in the middle of it I would have done anything if it worked.

I will certainly do Ferber again with the next one (if/when he/she arrives) and I hope it works as well as it did with Max - in the early months. And I will recommend to all moms who ask me that they try it. But that experience showed me that, even when I think I have an aspect of mothering figured out, I really don't.

tracy m said...

Marian- Amen to that!

With our first baby, we tried the co-speep thing until he was 8 months old. BIG mistake. With #2, we learned our lesson, and first night home from the hospital, in his own bed in his own room. Bingo. #3, same thing. And now they are all awesome sleepers. It makes me nauseas to think of all the cajolling and pleading and giving-in I did with #1, when it only made life for us hard, and sleep shallow for him.

I don't know the specs of the Ferber method, but if it gets all involved some sleep, hooray!