*Transition from crib to bed
*Bed time book
* Insomnia/ general sleep tips for teens and adults
For the most part I am a big believer that decisions involving sleep are very personal choices made by each family figuring out what fits their own unique situation. Most families do some sort of co-sleeping for the first couple of weeks. Some folks are happy keeping a family bed. Others move the baby out to a separate room fairly soon. Each family has a different tolerance level for how much crying they are comfortable with. Everyone needs to figure out what works best for their family (and hopefully both parents have been able to discuss this and be comfortable with their decision.)
I tend to fall somewhere in between the attachment parenting and the cry it out methods. I do NOT worry that your baby will have future psychological damage or attachment issues from a bit of crying at night. That is a lucky thing, because I also have found that even with the best routines, and watching for sleep cues, it is the rare infant who learns how to fall asleep without some fussing.
There are many books out there on the subject and many of them make good points.
Dr. Ferber (who tends to be one of the “cry it out” guys) says something that really resonated with me. We ALL have sleep cycles and may have periods during the night where we are semi awake. You might fluff your pillow, go to the bathroom or have a sip of water and then go back to sleep. But if you woke up and your pillow was missing, you wouldn’t simply turn over and go back to sleep. You would be up!! Where the heck is your pillow?
Guess what. If you are nursing your baby, they fall asleep and you sneak them into their bed, it is no surprise that when they come to a light sleep cycle they become fully awake. Hey, where is that breast, bottle, pacifier, rocking body?
As much as our instincts lead us to PUTTING the baby to sleep, we are better off letting them soothe themselves down with a minimum of assistance. It is certainly okay to pat them or put a firm loving hand against their forehead or chest. Go ahead and surround them with gentle shushing noises. Of course it’s fine for your baby to fall asleep during a feeding, but every time you are able to put your baby down while they are still drowsy, you are a giant step closer to getting a baby who can sleep through the night. Don’t sneak them into bed. Let them be aware of how they get there. Watch for little cues that they are getting sleepy. Rubbing the eyes is a classic one. Believe it or not it is much easier to get a baby to go to sleep if you catch them before they are over-tired.
Young infants need to eat around the clock. but I really want them to start learning the difference between day and night as soon as possible. I would encourage you to feed every 2 ½ -3 hours during the day. Don’t let any nap go longer than 2 ½ hours. I fully acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me about that. Some people would claim that it feels criminal to wake a sleeping baby. Listen, if they are taking a super long nap and you are in heaven with a bit of free time, go ahead and let them sleep. Once your baby is over 3 months of age and at least 11 pounds, they can start giving you a longer stretch without eating. We want that stretch to be at night.
Watch their pattern. Once they have shown you that they can go 4 or 5 hours at night, try not to backslide. It is okay to comfort them if they wake up, but I would do my best to avoid falling into the “feeding because it is easy” trap. Their little bodies have a lot of growing to do while they are sleeping.
I don’t know of ANY sleep training that doesn’t involve some fussing, but my method is relatively gentle. I tend to start with fairly low expectations. If a baby is getting adequate milk during the day, no one should need to eat more often than every 3 hours during the night (let’s consider nighttime as soon as you go to bed and until the sun comes up.) If they wake up sooner than 3 hours, someone can check on them (better to not be the mom who is nursing) but food is simply not an option until the magic 3 hour mark. After a few days stretch it to 3 ½ hours and so on. You can certainly check on them, change the diaper, even offer ½ ounce of water. If you think they might be teething go ahead and try some homeopathic teething gel. You are present for them, just not offering food (think turkey sandwich.) If you want to sit next to the crib and sing, that is up to you. The main lesson is that nighttime isn’t meal time.
Liore, one of my reader/moms shared an even better analogy. If you woke up and someone offered you a lovely warm chocolate chip cookie, of course you would accept it. That doesn't mean you need it!
The Ferber method involves going in to check on them and trying to settle them in increasingly longer increments. First time might be 5 minutes, then waiting 10, then waiting 15…etc.
I have actually found that some babies tend to get much madder if you go in at all and many parents just leave them awake and crying until the next feeding opportunity has come. You guys need to figure out what works best for you.
If you absolutely can’t bear the thought of letting them cry, you can do the “pick up/put down” method. If they are in a full scream, pick them up and jiggle and shoosh until they are calm. If they were really furious, this might take a while. Don’t say much. The minute they are calm. Place them back into the bed. Yes I know, they will immediately go back into fury mode. Once again pick them up until they quiet, and then put them down. This method takes a tremendous amount of patience and takes much longer than the simple let them cry strategy.
Night time feedings should always be dark, quiet, and business like. Once babies learn to fall asleep on their own and don’t expect to eat at night, you will be headed in the right direction. I understand that it is really wrenching to let your baby cry. In my case I had to remind myself often of what we were doing and why we were doing it. It also helped that my husband accepted the responsibility of being the primary sleep “trainer.”
Here are some of the factors that convinced me that it had to happen:
· Many people are lousy sleepers their entire lives. If you can potentially give your child the tools that it takes to be a good sleeper, and it only costs a week or two of crying, it is worth it, and you are giving them a gift for life.
· You have to “put your own oxygen mask on first”. Sleep deprivation is an awful thing. In order to be the best parent that you can possibly be, you need to be rested.