As a specialist in sleep and babies, one of my most humbling and rewarding missions is to teach babies – through their parents – independent sleep habits and teaching them how to self soothe their way back to sleep. The habits I will talk about today are all beneficial in setting up your baby for good sleep. We’re not just talking about one night of good sleep, but also for the long term. This isn’t an easy one. But, just as one of my previous posts on moving toddlers from cots to beds outlined, little people learn! Parents learn! And most importantly… EVERYONE sleeps!
I offer a range of different sleep methods that are versatile and cater for different needs and lifestyles. All of my methods work, so long as you are committed to adopting a method that suits you.
The Cry Me a River Method
This is a modified version of what some of you may know as the slightly controversial “cry out” style. This does seem daunting; however, I will explain all you need to know and why it works! This is my best seller and there’s a good reason for that – it is successful! Cry Me a River involves weening out and eliminating behaviour by not responding to it. For up to 3 nights there will be a lot of crying and it will require gladiator-level patience, but after this time the crying will subside until eventually, they will sleep through the night.
It is crucial that you stay consistent with this approach for 2 weeks so that your baby really understands the routine. Also, remember that babies are going to cry because it is their form of protesting. If someone changed your daily routine then you’d protest too, for a little bit at least!
The Check In and Comfort Method
This involves checking in on your bub but making sure you do not feed or rock them. Doing so will prevent them from falling asleep independently. Once in the crib you will leave your baby for a pre-set time and then come back with some reassuring actions such as a comforting whisper, a pat or a gentle touch. It’s important to note that you should not pick up your baby during this time (and I know that might seem impossible!). You’ll continue checking in and leaving at set times, however, the amount of check ins will decrease and the amount of time between these check ins will increase – day by day. Keep in mind, some parents find going into the room can stir up their bub, so some do choose a more hard-line style such as that in Cry Me a River.
The 8 Nights of the Chair Method
This method is very gradual and will require a strict approach from parents. The difference with this method compared to the previous ones is that instead of leaving the room, you’ll sit in a chair next to the crib once your baby has been put to sleep. Next, you’ll wait for your little one to fall asleep and then that is your cue to head out! Now, the hard part, every time your baby cries you will come back, sit in the chair and wait until they sleep again. Every few nights your chair will be placed further and further away from the crib until you’re no longer in their room.
The best part of this method is that mum and/or dad get to stay with their baby and be together. The hard part is that not only will you watch them cry, they’ll also be seeing you watching them, which can be heartbreaking initially. For this reason, it can be a challenge staying consistent but it is definitely doable and does get easier as time goes on.
The Up, Down and Pat Method
This one is suited to younger babies ( under 4 months) and is more of a happy medium between the ones discussed above. In this method you let your bub feel their discomfort and cry for a short time, and before it heightens you can give them support. This action could include picking your baby up, giving them a back rub or singing lullaby. Once they’ve calmed down you can leave when they’ve fallen asleep and you can head back to bed! The reason this technique is suited to younger children is because as they get older your presence may be too attention-grabbing for them, making it harder to fall asleep independently.
The Sleep Routine Fade-Out Method
This method is another great one to be used in conjunction with any of the other mentioned techniques. Basically, you continue with your chosen method that works for you and then start minimising the amount of time you spend doing it. Eventually you will have decreased your actions to such a point that no action is needed anymore and your baby sleeps independently! A main benefit of this technique is that is reduces crying significantly. A common struggle I hear from parents with this method is that it can be hard to maintain. Every kid will need a different amount of time fading out until they no longer need any technique. This can be taxing and requires patience, but it is worth it. The fade-out allows for a more natural progression to independent sleep and good sleep habits, whilst working with other methods that are right for you and your family.
The Hour of Bedtime Fade-Out Method
Now, this one can get confused with the previous technique but they are certainly different! The Hour of Bedtime Fade-Out starts with you putting your little one to bed around the time they usually start to nod off. You will note the time you pop them in their crib and make this their bedtime for the next 2 – 3 nights. Next you’ll start to move them into bed a little earlier as time goes on, and they will cry a little and make a fuss until they reach their natural snooze time. For example, if your bub normally sleeps at 7:50pm and you put them in their crib at 7:30pm they will kick up a stink for around 20 or so minutes until they reach their inner bedtime. You will continue to bring their bedtime forward, until they fall asleep by themselves at the desired time.
So there you have it, a run down of all my thoroughly tested and successful sleep routines available. Of course, these have been over-simplified and when you contact SleepBaker, I will help you assess which method/s are most appropriate for your needs and create an individualised plan for you and your little one. No matter what technique you choose the absolute key to success and reaching independent sleep goals is to remain consistent, committed, hopeful and patient.