Monday, 7 April 2014

How do you settle your baby to sleep?

I think that this is an important subject and I know that I personally have spent some time on Google trying to find the best way to settle my little one. The information out there is so vast and so varied that its always hard to know what method is the one that will work the best.

Lucy is a great sleeper overall but there have been times (like while a tooth is about to break through) that is has taken me ages to get her down to sleep, and on occasion she will only sleep for 40 minutes before waking and then we have to do it all over again. So, I don't have any magic solutions to settling your baby or knowledge of which is THE best method to use but I will share with you the ones that have worked for ME (and not necessarily every and each time) with Lucy and the kids that I have looked after previously. There are also some methods that I know of that I haven't used but have friends that did and they recommended them. So here it goes, let me know if you agree??

Newborns
soothing to sleep



When you have a new born on your hands I think settling to sleep is completely different to when they are 3 months, 6 months or 9 months old.
Newborns will need to feel you close by and settle the easiest and best when they are laying on top of a warm body and when they are being fed, either by breast or bottle. It is quiet reasonable and easy to transfer the sleeping baby to their own bassinet/cot with the knowledge that you and the baby will be up again in a couple of hours. I find that the only thing that will keep your newborn baby awake and upset for longer then necessary is hunger, dirty nappy, body temperature (either too hot or cold), colic or sickness. Once you realise what is causing the problem with settling to sleep you can try to fix it. And I'm afraid sometimes babies just like to cry.

6 weeks +
bed time routine


When your baby reaches 6 weeks, I personally believe that establishing a bed time routine is very important. The routine can be different for everyone but should be repeated everyday. Babies love knowing what will come next and thrive on a routine. This is especially true when it comes to settling your baby to sleep.
From around 6 weeks, you can start teaching your baby the difference between night and day so that YOU get to sleep longer at night too.
At this stage we introduced to Lucy a bath and a massage before bed and made sure to repeat it daily.
There are many books out there that will empathise the importance of a routine to a good night sleep. These books tell you when to feed the baby and how much sleep they should be getting, I'm sure you have read them all, but I believe that repetition is the most important part, so make sure that you pick something and stick to it.
Anyway I have gone off on a tangent, once you establish a routine for your little one you can encourage sleep in the following ways
- making soft shhhh sounds (or any form of white noise)
- feeding your baby to sleep
- rocking your baby to sleep
What I have done previously is a mixture of all, after feeding I would pick baby up and rock her while making the 'shhh' sound in a quiet room. Then before the baby fell asleep I would put her to bed and stand over her with my hands on her tummy saying 'shhhhh' until she drifted off before leaving. Now this worked for me and I must say sometimes I had to stand over that cot for a good half hour before she fell asleep but after 2 weeks she was so set in the routine that as soon as I put her down she would close her eyes and fall asleep.

12 weeks +
Different versions of Controlled Crying



Controlled crying sounds like a scary concept but it doesn't have to be. There are so many different opinions on the subject and also different versions of controlled crying but I will share the version that has worked for me. The most important result of settling a baby after 12 weeks, is teaching them to self settle, which can be very hard and it is where controlled crying comes in. Once a baby learns to self settle your life will become so much easier and sleep time will be a breeze (about 80% of the time...babies are so unpredictable).
I have done controlled crying for my baby and for most of the babies that I have looked after, and it does work. It can be stressful for the parent but you can tweak it to make it less stressful.
So this is what I do after following the night time routine; 
I put the baby to their cot fully awake and leave the room. If the baby cries I leave them to it for 2 min (I time myself, because 2 min feels like 10 when a baby is crying!) then I enter the room and try to sooth the baby by touch without lifting, if it doesn't work I pick the baby up and sooth quietly in my arms. Once the baby is peaceful again, they go back in the cot and I leave.
Now I do this 3 times, first time leaving for 2 min, then 4 and then 8...  (a friend of mine did a version of this method but went in every 30 seconds of the baby crying and it still worked) always timing myself and making sure baby is happy and peaceful before starting again. If the baby stops crying for a minute and starts again, you start timing again from the quiet period.
If after the 3rd time the baby is refusing to settle and you feel like your about to have a melt down with all the crying, I usually go in and after settling the baby I  sit by the cot with my hand on the baby making a 'shhhh' sound until the baby falls asleep. I try not to lift the baby up at all and if they get up, I just put them down again (this can be for a VERY LONG time). But you will find that your baby will fall asleep eventually and every night will get easier until you don't need to do it again.

Once your baby learns to self settle, your life will get easier and you will find that it was all worth it. There will also be times of disruption as babies go through teething and sickness or just have nightmares, but the majority of your evenings will not be spent settling your baby.
So let me know what you think and what methods worked for you?




Photos courtesy of Claudio Raschella Photographer