Updated October 2018
Infant Sleep Solutions: Part 5
I debated about sending this email out right now because it’s still so early and I don’t want to wig anyone out about sleeping habits. However, I thought the knowledge you can get from this article (and thus, better sleep for you and baby in the long-term) probably trumps the feeling of information overload.
If everything’s going great and you’re ready for a bit of sleep education, read this email and put it into practice. BUT, if things are rocky and you’re feeling cray-cray, just ignore it or save it for later. Bottom line: Don’t let this add to your stress. Cool?
Laying a Foundation
Now is a great time to familiarize yourself with some basic baby sleeping skills. By understanding infant sleep needs now, we are laying the foundation for happy sleep going forward.
My goal is for you to understand and follow some simple rules and best practices so you don’t have to resort to harsh methods of “sleep training” down the line. It PAINS me to get emails from moms at 4, 6 or 8 months postpartum telling me they’re so sleep-deprived they’re ready to jump off a bridge. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Thus [clears throat], we begin.
Infant Sleep 101
Sleep specialists agree that the ability to put oneself to sleep without intervention is:
- A skill that must be taught (i.e. it’s not an innate skill)
- Absolutely essential to becoming a “good” sleeper
The end goal is to put your baby down sleepy but still awake so that he learns how to fall asleep on his own. It’s worth repeating: Your goal is to put your baby down sleepy but still awake so that he learns how to fall asleep on his own.
What we want to avoid (ideally) is having him fall asleep in your arms every time, moving him to a crib and having him waking up thinking, “WAIT! I fell asleep with mom, now where am I? And how did I get here? Now I’m awake and I need her to do that thing to get me back to sleep – WAHHHH!” [No, they are not capable of that level of thought yet, but you get my drift…]
Like with anything in life, if you never do something, you’ll never know how to do… that thing.
This is in bold because it is the most common infant sleep problem. I ask you to fill in the blank:
My baby cannot fall asleep unless I ________.
If we were playing Family Feud, the following answers would be winners: nurse/feed her, rock/bounce/hold/walk down the hall, have her twirl my hair/hold my finger, drive her around in a car/stroller, and put her in the baby carrier/swing. *Don’t worry, pacifiers and swaddling don’t count as a crutch 🙂
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not asking you to stop doing all these things. After all, these are things that babies (and parents!) love.
Over the next few weeks and months, the goal is to make it so your baby doesn’t totally rely on a crutch in order to fall asleep (or more importantly, to get back to sleep in the middle of the night) each and every time.
Real life example: One woman’s baby wouldn’t sleep unless she had THREE HAIR DRYERS running on high in her room at the same time (I kid you not, I couldn’t make this sh!t up if I tried). When one would burn out, she’d run to Target in the middle of the night to buy another. Yes, she ran them all. Night. Long. Can you imagine? THAT, my friends, is a baby with a really nasty (nay, hazardous?) sleep crutch. Okay, that’s an extreme example.
Another good friend’s baby will ONLY nap while on her back whilst in a baby carrier. He has NEVER napped in his crib. Ever.
Let me be clear: it is perfectly okay for your baby to occasionally fall asleep in the car seat, in the stroller… wherever; it’s going to happen all the time whether you like it or not. Just try not to proactively perpetuate a sleep crutch for your baby [i.e. don’t let your magic trick become a bad habit]. I know you’re hating me right now; I can feel it.
Over the next couple of months, I want you to try to start putting your baby down without doing [sleep crutch of choice] with the ultimate goal of doing it consistently every time.
The gist is that if baby learns to fall asleep on his own (initially), he’ll be able to fall BACK asleep on his own when he wakes in the night. We are tackling this now because these night wakings will happen with greater intensity starting around 4 months. SO, if you can master this between now and 4 months, you’ll be in so much better shape compared to most moms whose babies rely on some kind of intervention (nursing, rocking, etc.) to get them back to sleep each time they wake in the night.
Again, the goal is to prevent you from having to resort to harsher methods of sleep training down the line, so start now (or sometime soon) and you’ll be queen of the castle. Master of your domain.
Are we still friends?
P.S. You’re doing great! You really are. Remember: The spit up on your shirt is the mark of a true warrior. Wear it with pride.