Sleeping like a swaddled/rocked/shhhd/strollered/nursed baby.
When you introduced your bundle of joy to the world, everyone marveled at his ability to sleep through anything: dogs barking, garbage trucks grinding, your spouse’s early-morning allergic sneezing. But now… not so much. He’s a little older and wakes up when the phone rings, floor creaks, shower turns on, kettle clicks, and any time you’re about to sit down to finally kick your feet up. And not only is he waking at the drop of a pin, those long night-time stretches he used to pull are becoming shorter and shorter. Kinda like your coping fuse.
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.
You were warned about sleep deprivation. But you dismissed those doomsdayers with a casual pshaw – after all, you mastered all-nighters back in the day, so how bad can it be? And now you know: really bad. Really, really, really bad. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. TORTURE. Dealing with a non-sleeping baby means night after night of little/no sleep with no reprieve. Not exactly the same as when you crammed for an exam and then crashed to catch up as soon as it was over.
When our firstborn started waking more often in the night as a three-month-old, we chalked it up to hunger. When he continued waking even more often as a six-month-old, we blamed his newly budding teeth. By nine months, when he woke hourly and rolled over with his mouth open in anticipation of the milk to come, we… had to find a better way. So we spoke with other parents we knew, heard and read a wide-range of conflicting and confusing advice, and finally got to work with the help of Dr. Richard Ferber. It wasn’t easy. Part of the reason why it was so difficult was because he was our first, we’d never let him cry without rushing to console him, and we’d missed the most opportune sleep-training window. It was sad. But it was so, so worth it. He adjusted, we adjusted, and we went on to have two more amazing children. Seriously – there’s almost no chance we would have had more babies if we’d continued down the sleep-deprived-path we were headed.
For any kind of sleep-training to work, the first step is to recognize what’s appropriate for your babe’s age. You should definitely be doing whatever it takes to get your newborn to sleep, but once he hits the two month mark you can start* laying the groundwork for good sleep habits. This means:
- Working on a schedule.
- Avoiding strollers/carseats/slings for at least one of the daily naps and definitely at night.
- Removing pacifiers or anything else he sucks on… yup, that means no more nursing to sleep.
- Pimping out his “sleep environment” with blackout liners and a white noise machine… critical!
*Note this key word: start. Take a look at catching forty winks baby-style for more.
If he’s still struggling after four months, the real training can begin. Here’s what has to happen for successful Ferberizing:
- Both parents have to be onboard. It won’t work if you can’t rely on each other for support.
- You need a plan for how you’ll stay strong when your resolve weakens. The middle-of-the-night cry-fests are the worst, and it’s really easy to fall into the “I’ll just comfort him this one time,” trap. We used to sit outside his door, head-in-hands, repeating the mantra “If we cave now then all his crying up to this point was for nothing.” Sad, yes, but it worked.
- Stick to the detailed plan in the book without deviation. It takes all the thinking out of it so you can focus on… willpower.
- Spend A LOT of time during the day cuddling/nurturing/loving your sweet babe. This is probably more for you than for him, since he’ll wake up smiling and happy even after a night of the worst crying he’s ever done in his life.
- Pick the right time in your busy schedules to get ’er done. A week before a vacation is less than ideal, as is any time he’s cutting teeth or running a fever.
It took four nights for our nine-month old to finally sleep through the night, and only one when we sleep-trained our second and third babies between five and six months. And although they’ve been superstar sleepers ever since, give or take a virus/vacation/nightmare, we still refer to our sleep Bible if anyone’s starting to slip. Phasing out naps can be tricky, and there’s a super handy chart describing adequate day/night sleep for different ages. When our second was nine months, he had two fantastic naps every day, both bordering on two hours. We put him to bed at eight o’clock every night expecting him to sleep through until seven and, well, we were the ones dreaming. A quick scan of this chart made us realize why he was waking up earlier than a rooster and how to sleep-shift to solve the problem. He’s four now and LOVES to sleep… yay Ferber!
If your baby’s old enough that he should be sleeping better but he’s not, waiting it out probably won’t work for an unnecessarily long and exhausting time. He needs sleep to grow, just as much as you need sleep to survive. Babies learn what they’re taught, and they adapt quickly. Teaching them how to fall asleep and stay asleep independently also teaches them you value yourself, and your sanity, enough to admit when you’ve had enough.
Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter if this helped you. Email us to learn more about sleep-shifting or if you don’t have time and want a simple breakdown of what to do for a better sleep tonight… we’ve been there!