I frequently get phone calls from sleep deprived parents asking for my help, explaining the routine they are currently using and what they would like to achieve with the new routine and then they add…. “But, I don’t want any crying…my husband and I don’t cope with it”.
I completely understand this request and my aim is to empower the parents with the skills to improve their baby/toddlers routine without any crying or distress and sometimes this happens at the first sleep but sometimes this isn’t possible. In the case of the newborn baby up to age of about 3 months we are often ‘fine-tuning’ the routine with efficient uptimes, downtimes and the bedroom environment and they basically look at us and say “thank goodness someone knew what I needed!” and go to sleep without a murmur.
In other cases the baby needs a few days to settle into the new routine, respond to the new cues and learn to self-settle in their own bed. We need to remember that baby is intelligent and has only responded to the regular cues and routines that you have initiated since birth. What you have been doing was ‘working’ for everyone until now and while we have valid reasons for changing the routine baby doesn’t know we are going to change anything and so sometimes they are going to protest!
Case study: Baby around 4-6 weeks old.
Presents as very unsettled during the day and night, 20-45 minute day sleeps, often will only sleep on mum’s chest or in someone’s arms, in sling or in bed with mum and dad. Refuses to sleep in the cot/bassinette, mum feels stuck at home because baby will not sleep in stroller either. Baby isn’t feeding very well, fussing a lot and is particularly unsettled after feeds, will usually feed best when going to sleep. Mum and dad suspect reflux or colic. Parents have tried the dummy with limited success, baby is wrapped for all sleeps but gets out of it frequently.
Goals for baby:
Relaxed feeds, enjoys playtime, provides obvious tried signs, appreciates cues for sleep, calm going into bed and self-settles to sleep. Enjoys personal sleep requirement and wakes happy and hungry for the next feed and ready to play again……
We look at the bedroom environment, make the feeding and playtime more efficient, remove the props that prevent self-settling, identify baby’s tired signs and when baby is ready for bed, fine tune the wrapping technique and provide baby with some new cues for sleep.
*Once in bed baby may start to whinge/talk on and off like a ‘rollercoaster’ for a few minutes. A whinge is noise that you feel comfortable with and sound like they are self-settling, mum and dad feel happy to stay outside the room because baby isn’t upset and the whinging is getting progressively quieter. A short time later baby is quiet and asleep. Baby ends up sleeping for 2 hours without waking because they are comfortable and their environment is encouraging a restful sleep.