I went ahead and bought Elizabeth Pantley’s other book too, “The No Cry Nap Solution”.
The books are quite dense, which wouldn’t suit everyone – they present a smorgasbord of sleep suggestions to experiment with based on the family’s circumstances and sleep goals. This means you have to trawl through the entire book and develop your own plan. It suits us, two nerdy lawyers who like reading and put wanky stuff like “can analyse complex information” on our CVs.
Reading online message boards, it sounds like our sleep situation is very common. In the interests of “you are not alone” internet solidarity, I’ll describe our plan. I’ll let you know later whether it works.
Starting point: a baby who falls asleep being rocked, nursed, pushed in a buggy, worn in a baby carrier, or bounced on an exercise ball, but not by himself in bed. A baby who wakes up when we try to transfer him from one place (arms) to another (cot), unless we are very careful; and even then might only nap for 20 minutes. A baby who never naps for more than 45 minutes except in our arms or lying in bed next to us, where we can soothe him when he stirs. A baby who wakes every couple of hours through the night.
The goal: he falls asleep in his cot after being soothed in our arms or nursed, has two day naps of at least an hour and a half each, and sleeps for five or six hours in a row overnight (with a view to sleeping longer eventually).
1) Make the days predictable. Regular wake time in the morning, regular meal times (solids, breastfeeding is still on demand), and regular nap times. Do everything we can to make sure he naps for at least an hour and a half, even if it means lying in bed with him every nap for a week. An under-napped baby is an overtired baby and won’t be receptive to new bedtime techniques. Keep the hour before bedtime quiet, relaxed, and dimly-lit.
2) Create pre-bed wind down rituals. Use positive associations as he’s falling asleep in our arms – shhh noises, lullabies, a particular soft toy. Try and slowly reduce the length of the soothing, e.g. rocking until almost asleep and then just holding him.
3) Once a routine is established and naps are long and regular, his body clock will be in sync with a 24 hour day. We’re down to one problem: he needs our help to fall asleep, including getting back to sleep after periods of light sleep through the night. This is when we start to teach him to fall asleep by himself, using the positive associations we’ve established in 2. First we put him in his cot almost asleep and keep hushing and shushing until he drops off, then once this works we put him down more and more awake until he can fall asleep by himself if he is calm and sleepy and relaxed and we’ve done our wind-down ritual.
It sounds simple, but step 3 can apparently take weeks to pull off, we’re still at step 2. Baby steps and all 😉
(Written while lying next to a sleeping baby.)