“Dr Linda, my 6-month-old was sleeping really well but now he wakes up every 2 to 3 hours and cries till I go in and put him back to sleep. What’s wrong?’
In this situation, there are two things at play:
• Baby does not know how to fall asleep on his own and needs his mom to get him back to sleep.
• By accident mom created a sleep association she does not like.
What you need to know to get your baby back to sleep:
• How to teach your baby to go back to sleep on his own.
• How to give your baby good sleep associations and avoid bad sleep habits.
In this article, I will go through how to teach your baby to go back to sleep on his own.
How to teach baby to self soothe to sleep:
1. Take care of you first. Take three deep breaths so you become calm and present.
2. Decide that you are a firm and loving teacher.
3. Put baby down drowsy but awake.
Most babies in the early months fall asleep while they are eating, so, at the end of the feed when baby’s eyelids are droopy, burp him and then put him down.
He may fuss for a few moments because you removed him from your warmth and softness; wait a few seconds to see what he does.
He may calm down and go back to sleep, or, he may continue to fuss and then start to cry. Your baby is learning how to take himself from drowsy to fully asleep, so it may take a few moments.
- If baby starts to cry: wait a few moments, up to 30-60 seconds (time it, crying always seems longer than it actually is); if he does not stop crying, pick him up, pat him on the back and soothe him for a few moments and then, put him down again.
- If he fusses again repeat the last step over and over for up to 10 minutes.
- If your baby still will not fall asleep, do what has worked in the past to get him to sleep so he doesn’t get too wired to fall asleep.
- Do this every time you put him down whether it’s at night or at nap time until your baby learns that this is how you want him to go to sleep.
When you start this training at an early age,(about 4-6 weeks), your baby should learn to self soothe quickly. If you are starting when your baby is older, it will probably take longer because you need to change some habits your baby has developed.
Be patient and consistent, you are not only teaching your baby how to sleep, but also how to use self-control, an extremely valuable skill!
Back to Sleep Before 6 Months
When your baby is less than 6 months old I do not recommend letting him cry for long periods of time as you teach him to sleep. A minute or two is fine, but longer than that could potentially affect your bonding with your baby.
Babies whose mothers who are loving, present and responsive to their needs have develop a secure bond with their mothers. A baby with a secure type bond with his/her mother grows up with better self-esteem and self confidence.
Back to Sleep After 6-9 Months
After 6-9 months you have established your bond,so, when you are more comfortable with it, you may allow baby to cry for longer periods of time as you teach him to self soothe.
Remember, be patient with yourself and your baby, as you sleep train. The calmer you are, the easier it will be.
Please post any comments or questions about this or any other topics you have for me. Share what has worked for you, or just share your frustrations - we can help!
The article next week will be about how to create good sleep associations and avoid bad habits.
To your holistic health,