I re-read the No Cry Sleep Solution because I’m hopeful that the new bub’s sleep will be better than the little dude’s and it can’t hurt to try and be more proactive this time. From five months old til nine months, the little dude would wake as many as five times a night and we were floundering and desperate. He would need to be rocked for up to 45 minutes before a nap, then he would wake after only 20 minutes. It was not good. The No Cry Sleep Solution became our bible and sanity saver. I had a strong aversion to leaving him to cry, but waiting it out wasn’t working. The No Cry approach gave me a blueprint for getting to good sleep. However, re-reading it, I’m struck by how ridiculously complicated it is. Seriously way overcomplicated. So here’s a step by step summary.
- Figure out what sleeping pattern is developmentally appropriate for your baby. Set your expectations accordingly. Don’t try and get your kid to do something they’re not ready for yet. Newborns need to feed every two to four hours. Older babies might still need to feed once or twice at night. Babies are fairly consistent in how long they can stay awake between sleeps – get to know these timeframes so you can work with them. Your baby is unlikely to be that one baby who doesn’t need to nap. (The Baby Sleep Site nap chart is helpful in showing what to expect by age.)
- There are two problems you might face: waking and settling. They are connected. Baby sleep patterns mature at around 4 months old, which is when you might find the baby waking up after only 45 minutes or less of sleep (as they cycle from deep sleep to light sleep). From this age onward, waking is more likely if your baby isn’t falling asleep by himself in his sleeping place. When baby is able to settle to sleep, they will be more likely to settle back to sleep themselves after a period of light sleep or a slight awakening.
- Be careful not to reinforce the slight wakings, give them a few minutes to see if they go back down by themselves if they’re just grunting and melwing, but not sounding upset. Sleep noises are normal.
- To solve both the waking and settling problems, look to the sleep environment first. What cues does your baby currently associate with sleep? If your baby currently nurses to sleep or is rocked to sleep, they are unlikely to spontaneously start falling asleep by themsleves in their cot.
- The key part of the no-cry approach is to develop a good set of sleep cues. A common example is stories, then lullabies, then saying goodnight. A particular bedtime soft toy might be a feature. There might be a special blanket or pillow. Good sleep cues should be fairly generic and not too complicated. Sleep cues for the big night sleep might need an extra element to distinguish it from naps – for example, a bath. (It helps to consider your own sleep cues, for example, personally I can’t sleep if I get into bed without checking the front door is locked).
- Once you have identified your baby’s current sleep cues and the sleep cues you hope to create, adopt a transitional routine. For example, if the baby usually falls asleep on the breast, try delatching when suckling slows, then rocking to sleep as part of the transition (three or four months old is a good time to start this). Sing a particular lullaby as you rock baby to sleep for a few days, then once that is established as a cue, start putting baby in the cot just before they fall fully asleep, while continuing to sing the lullaby. It may take time to get them to sleep better, and progress might not be linear, especially if existing cues are strongly entrenched. The idea is to reach a point where they go into the bed fully awake and do the falling asleep by themselves. It might take several weeks of gradually introducing the new routine. For example, after two weeks your baby might fall asleep in the cot while you rub his back and sing songs, rather than needing to be rocked. If this solves the waking problem and you’re happy to continue a more facilitated approach to falling asleep, that’s all good – no need to push forward to a point where you say goodnight and they go down alone.
- But if you do want to take it a step further, all good too. Gradual works for some people (i.e. getting closer and closer to the door until you do the last song from the doorway), but you can also try the big leap – do the new routine, and then say goodnight and leave. When I did this with the little dude I was astounded that he didn’t cry. He made noises for about ten minutes, but not upset noises, then he fell asleep. Three days later he wasn’t even making noises, he was just going straight to sleep. And I was like – whaaaaaat?
- To solve the waking problem, consider an intermediate step of helping the baby resettle after brief awakenings. For example, if your 9 month old wakes after only 20 minutes of napping, pick him up and rock him back to sleep. Don’t accept that the nap has ended. It might take 20 minutes of extra rocking to get an extra 30 minutes of napping – that’s ok. After a few days of this the naps should get longer, especially if you’re also working on getting the baby to fall asleep in the sleeping place.
- When you go on holiday etc and sleeping gets disrupted, you might need to accept that baby needs more help sleeping. For example, on holiday you might stay with your baby singing songs until baby falls asleep, and when you get home they might expect that again. It’s ok, do the more intensive version for a few nights and then gradually scale back until you reach a point where you can try saying goodnight and leaving, restoring the former approach.
- Remember that babies like predictability and routine. Once you have a new pattern established, they will find comfort in knowing what comes next. Sleep cues help them feel sleepy, which is great, but they also help them feel secure. The goal is also to help the parents enjoy bedtime more – so that the stories and lullabies become a nice routine that rounds off the day rather than a final struggle before precious adult time. Also remember that small children understand a lot more language than they can use. Even a 10 month old baby will quickly learn the meaning of the word “goodnight”.
There we have it – a one page summary of a few hundred pages of book. Now we don’t have to read it again, and neither do you.
(see also https://teaplusoranges.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/part-1-we-have-a-book and https://teaplusoranges.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/part-2-we-have-a-plan)