by Julie Trotter, Newborn Care Specialist and Birth Doula at The Happiest Doulas
Sleep, oh the beloved word of parents in wishing they simply had more of it. Nothing prepares you for the sleep deprivation you will somehow survive through when you become a parent! Don’t co-sleep….Co-sleeping was the best thing we ever did….Don’t let your baby cry it out, it might ruin him….Crying it out was what worked for us…..the list of dos and don’ts in regards to the best sleeping method goes on and on. So what in the world should parents really do?
There is no “one method fits all” for babies. I encourage all new parents to read and research as much as they can and choose a method or variety of methods that they feel comfortable with. Whatever method you choose, consistency is crucial and giving the method a good 3-5 nights before giving up on it and trying something else is key.
According to Moms on Call 6-15 Months Book, “Let the baby cry on and off, even if the crying lasts an hour or two. They will fall asleep. Give it three to five nights. Parents are always so afraid the child will feel abandoned. So we have to ask: Are they abandoned? No, they are not abandoned. Then we parent out of truth. They are not abandoned and you will show up every morning at that predictable time and they will be ready for your warm embrace.” I personally like this philosophy and the Moms on Call book because they use a lot of reassurance for parents that your baby is going to be just fine and you will be so glad once you’re all getting a good night’s sleep.
If you feel uncomfortable with leaving your baby to cry alone, another method of what I like to call “controlled crying” can be used, the Ferber Method. Ferber designed a method of anytime your baby cries when he’s supposed to be sleeping, you can do check-ins at certain time intervals to pat and comfort your baby for about 30 seconds, without picking him up and then leave the room again when he’s still awake. Over the period of several nights, you gradually increase the time between check-ins, allowing your baby more time to learn to self soothe.
Some other tips to try if you are in the midst of trying to sleep train or transition your baby from your bed to his own or from your room to his own:
1) Implement using a white noise machine throughout the duration of sleep time. Conair Sound Therapy on Amazon is the perfect, inexpensive machine that does a great job. Be sure it’s on the loudest volume setting so you can hear it on the other side of the closed door when you leave the room. Place it about 2 feet from the head of the crib at the same height level as the crib mattress. White noise promotes longer stretches of the deep REM sleep.
2) Utilize a bedtime routine. Having a warm bath, dimming the lights, reading/singing softly while cuddling is a great time for bonding and a great way to end baby’s day peacefully.
3) Once baby is in his designated sleeping room, do not take him out of that room for the remainder of the night. Taking baby out into the light in the middle of the night only causes him to be more alert and harder to put back to sleep.
4) Keep the sleeping area as dark as possible. Babies are not scared of the dark, so night lights are not needed and complete darkness promotes melatonin production for more restful sleep.
5) Be sure baby is in his bed for the night between 7pm and 8pm. A late bedtime actually counteracts restful sleep and you will just end up with an overtired baby who doesn’t want to go to sleep and when he does, has a hard time staying asleep soundly.
6) Be sure the crib is free of distraction and entertainment. Mobiles and toys are cute, but you want baby to realize his crib is for sleeping, not playing.
Babies are creatures of habit and once a certain habit gets engrained in their routine, it takes time to break them of it. For example, if your baby has been used to nursing completely to sleep before being put into bed at night for 5 months, of course, the first night you lay him down without nursing, he is likely going to “sound an alarm” like a fire truck! But have no fear, it will get better, I promise!
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