Friday, August 30, 2013

Putting Baby to Sleep

My friend Ron asked for advice on how to help their infant sleep better.  Here are a few of my thoughts.


We tried not to stress too much about making our kids sleep through the night.  Here are a few things we tried with moderate off-and-on success, and that seems to be about the best results out there.  Anyone who argues with that is probably just lucky or trying to sell something.  Every kid is different.  Our daughter slept WAY better than our son.  At two, he still gets up once about half the time now.
  • Take it slow.  Go for incremental changes.  Do whatever she likes best, minus a half step that makes it easier on you.  And slowly ease back.  For example, you might try laying down with her on the floor or on a twin bed, and then getting up (and packing pillows around to protect her from rolling off if you're on the bed).  That way she gets to fall asleep with you, but you don't have to stay there all night.
  • Try putting her down in a car seat or stroller.  Our son was a bear to get to sleep from about 3 months to 9 months.  Often, I would take him on late night walks in the stroller.  As a newborn, Our girl actually slept way better in her car seat.  We would just put that in her crib or on the floor in her room and strap her down.  I guess she felt secure, or maybe she didn't wake herself up by flailing around.
  • Take turns.  When they are really young and are getting up a lot, rotate between parents.  Or when we were breastfeeding all the time, I would get up to go get the baby, change the diaper, and bring him back to my wife.  That way, she was able to nurse and kind of go back to sleep.  It was really hard for her to go back to sleep once she actually got out of bed.  Another thing that seemed to help us is that I would feed our boy a bottle to get him to go to bed (and stay up with him until he actually fell asleep, even if that meant an hour of walking).  During that time, my wife would go to bed early, and then, she would take the first wake-up call and nurse him as needed through the rest of the night.
  • If you're afraid to sleep with the baby (and I was), we got a diaper table pad with the higher edges or a body pillow to put in the bed with us.  Then, we pushed the baby up against the wall on the diaper pad or with the body pillow between her and us.  That way, late night nursings were less disruptive.
  • Some people are huge proponents of rhythm: bath, book, bottle, bed, etc.  But we never found that to make that much difference for us, and our lives were to random to make that really work.
  • When you lay her down, try to maintain contact.  Stay bent over, maybe even keep your hand over her so it doesn't feel much different.  Then, slowly, gently ease yourself away, minutes at a time, if necessary.  It might take 5 minutes to totally escape, but that's much better than a quick release and a crying baby.  This was hugely helpful for our son.  (And I'm currently using this to ease out after books and bottle, still.)
  • After you've tried everything ... try letting her cry.  There were a few times with our boy after 6 months or so when we just said, "No, we're not getting up with him until sunrise" or something like that.  So he would cry for 15-20 minutes and then go back to sleep.  Usually we only had to do that one or two nights, and then he just kind of snapped out of the midnight wake-ups.  
OK.  I don't know if any of that will help you or not, but that is what worked for us.  Just keep trying new stuff.  Keep taking turns to give each other breaks.  Call in help from grandma so you can have time away.  And also, just lower your expectations for this season of your life.  You won't be as productive, social, or energetic as "usual."  Caring for a baby is just tough, but it gets better.

Other parents out there, what do you do?  What has worked or not for you?  Sometimes people just need to try 1,000 things to find one or two that help their kids.

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