Sleeping Babies & Dear Doggies

One parent raised the following dilemma: “how do parents meet competing needs of all beloved household creatures when they don't fall together, time-wise?’


 She went on to describe a recent experience:

“Recently, I have found myself in a late afternoon quandary: My 14-week-old daughter is taking a REALLY good nap -- longer than expected -- but my dog tells me she needs to pee. If we still lived in a home with a fenced yard, this would be a no-brainer: Let the dog out. But since we don't... I have tried timing these things to each other, but my daughter is still young enough that her schedule is still a work in progress. My dog, on the other hand, is fickle -- sometimes she chooses not to pee on earlier "relief" walks, and she absolutely won't use a piddle pad (or "go" indoors at all). It's not in our budget to hire a dog walker, especially since these rare occurrences are unpredictable so any regular set-up would feel like a waste of money. As we are trying to encourage good sleep habits (e.g. sleeping in a "still" spot like her crib, rather than in-motion), I'm reluctant to try to move her into a chest carrier or stroller, especially on a rainy day like today.

A relative I trust whose parenting approach I agree with has encouraged me to leave my baby sleeping in her crib, locked in the apartment, for the five minutes it would take to relieve my dog. I'm of mixed opinions about this suggestion. I'm looking to better understand neighborhood social norms (we're new to the neighborhood, and New York living in general).  I am less concerned about my daughter waking to find herself in her room alone than I am about an emergency happening to me while I was out...and the potential social services ramifications that would follow (per the discussion on this list of leaving an 8-year-old home alone).

If anyone has any experience with this topic or constructive suggestions to offer, I'd love to hear them. If you don't want to "out" yourself to the whole list (I had hoped to make this an anonymous post but was rejected), I'd be grateful if you'd respond directly to me and I'll promise to keep your discretion. I'm also glad to aggregate responses and circulate them, if others are interested.”


The poster summarized her responses below:


A few respondents said they would never, ever leave Sleeping Baby (SB) alone, based on fear of something happening to SB and/or fear of charges of neglect/endangerment if SB was *found* to be alone (e.g. by nosy neighbor, police if something bad happened while the parent was out, etc). One respondent writes:

"I have thought about this question several times myself, though the reason to leave the sleeping baby in my case was to move the car, on our block, for alternate side parking.  First, I'm sure that your daughter (and mine) would be completely fine if they woke up in their cribs and nobody was in the house for 5 minutes.  My daughter sleeps in her room with the door closed and often we let her wake up, talk, cry, etc. for a few minutes before going in to get her in the morning or after a nap.  But in the end, I decided that the legal ramifications of something happening to me while I was out just weren't worth it.  (In terms of the ethics and wisdom of the situation, I think leaving for 5 minutes is fine -- I just doubt that in the very unlikely event that you were somehow detained, our overburdened legal and social services system would see the nuances and accept your legitimate reason for going out for a few minutes.  It could devolve into an ugly mess)."


Change a variable:

A few respondents said that "something has to give," whether it's SB being jostled to be placed in carrier/stroller, or training Dear Dog (DD) to (1) use pee pads indoors, (2) "hold it," (3) pee on command using a command word and make sure DD is well-drained prior to baby's nap, and/or (4) eat/drink on a strict schedule that created more predictability in DD's needs.


Enlist a neighbor:

A very good suggestion, and just the newbie nudge I need. Ask a neighbor to (1) watch SB directly, (2) keep the baby monitor and a key in case SB needs something, and/or (3) take DD out for me. Offer to trade favors with neighbor. Thank neighbor with baked goods, etc.


Leave a SB alone, within reason:

By far, the greatest response was from parents who have left SB to dash out for brief errands within their building or in the immediate vicinity  (DD's pee, moving the car for opposite side parking, signing for a package when the buzzer was broken, running down to the basement to do laundry, gardening). Many respondents compared my situation to two situations -- one unique to urban life, the other suburban -- in which it is socially sanctioned to leave a baby to sleep: (1) evening socializing on the stoop while baby snoozes in the apartment and (2) leaving sleeping baby at one end/floor/wing of the large home while doing whatever it is that people with that much space do in the other end/floor/wing of the large home. Critically, these respondents reminded me to (1) Take my baby monitor (duh, can't believe I didn't think of that...) and (2) create a back-up plan in case I ever locked myself out of my apartment or building (GOOD CALL!!!).  People who responded favored locking the baby in, for the most part, although a few folks preferred leaving the apartment door unlocked and the front door propped open in case of emergency/need to get back upstairs quickly. They also encouraged me to take into consideration whether I'm in an elevator building or use stairs (in terms of speed of return in emergency), whether DD will pee directly outside front door or need a short walk, and other variables that reflect the unique reality of each of our situations. Some of my favorite comments came from this crowd, and I share them simply b/c I think city dwellers will find them appreciable:

"I have been in a similar situation a few times, and it has certainly struck me that I would step out of a house and into a yard with the baby asleep in his crib, but that an apartment building and street feels different -- more to do with mental boundary-marking about "home" than anything rational."

"I actually am one of those who can be close to a "helicopter parent, but in this case when kids are asleep, I think taking the dog out for a minute is the same as going to the yard in a single family house if the kid is upstairs."

"When (my daughter) was younger and I was confident that she was sound asleep and there was a wallop of snow on the ground or below freezing temps, I would take the dog for a quick spin (the alternative is waiting the hour for her to wake, dressing her in 8 layers of clothing and going out for approx 10minute walk, coming in, undressing and all that- no thank you...My family is always mystified at how I walked the dog, did laundry at the laudrymat and washed dishes daily with none of the above for help and a baby/toddler in tow. I had to remind myself several hundred times that I was fighting the "good fight" by living in the city, living my LIFE, and not moving to the suburbs with all the wonderful bonuses that come with it."

"This the city - and walking downstairs and out in front of our building is no different, in my opinion, than if I lived in a mcmansion in the burbs and left my son upstairs while I walked downstairs and took out the trash or something.  It takes about the same amount of time, and is a similar distance.  Anyway, assuming you are only away from your baby for 5 minutes, I don't think it's a big deal, and not that much different than living way out in the burbs and leaving your kid alone in their crib at night while you go outside and get something from the car, pick up the newspaper at the end of the driveway, get the mail, etc. "


Some additional comments also include:


Take everything in moderation:

“I really can't see that going outside for the dog to pee would be a big problem as long as you don't lock yourself out. I left my sleeping baby to let people in and out of our apartment house - we're probably talking 5 mins in some cases. It's not like your baby is going to jump up and leap out a window is it?

I'm sure we could sit around and come up with dire scenarios: The apartment catches fire, a gang of thieves break into your apartment, a plane crashes into your apartment, theceilingcollapses, a giant escaped python makes its way into your baby’s room.

I just don't see that happening. Do you?

I remember my pediatrician making fun of me because I was poised to leap in case my son (at 4 months) were to hurl himself off the exam table.

Sometimes I think our imaginations are just too morbid.”


Set up rules for leaving your Kids home alone:

“I am a single mom with two daughters, ages 7 & 9, and have a 11 month old puppy. I have no choice but to lock my girls up in the house while I walk my dog. They are under strict instructions not to open the door, eat any food, or leave their bedrooms. I am fortunate because I also have a house alarm that I put on each time.In your case, I feel it's fine while your child is sleeping to walk your dog. If she is sleeping, I think she will be just fine. You need to do what is necessary for all your living creatures under your care.”