Our daughter stopped when she was five weeks old breastfeeding to sleep. Her eyes closed as she lay in my arms, her mouth fell silent, and I gently untied her and lifted her to my shoulder to burp. Sometimes she would snuggle against my shoulder asleep for five minutes, sometimes just a few seconds, but soon her eyes flew open and she jumped up, wide awake and ready to play.
Every time this happened, my heart sank. She was clearly exhausted; why couldn’t she sleep?
The time she finally fell asleep was getting later and later each night. She had often fallen asleep between 10pm and midnight—as much as I longed for an earlier bedtime, I didn’t know how to change it—but now it dragged on into the early hours of the morning. As midnight came and went, I switched from counting down the hours until she slept to wondering if this would be my life from now on. I was exhausted and miserable and felt like a sleep every night from 5pm until I fell asleep Marathon of cluster feeding and restlessness and sore nipples.
One night she simply refused to sleep at all. She kept waking up after I had finished feeding her; that magical time when she finally slept through never came. She finally fell asleep at 5:30 the next morning. On the way, I tried to rock her to sleep and walk her around in a front pack, but after spending thirty minutes closing her eyes, she woke up the second I put her to bed. every time Not even fussy, she was wide awake and craved attention.
When I mentioned this to my midwife, I despaired Tips to help her fall asleep, You just said, “Babies do that sometimes.”
Should I accept my baby occasionally staying up 12 hours at a time? That didn’t seem like a good idea, either for me or for my poor baby who was sleep deprived.
I gave up feeding her to sleep and switched to rocking her, although this often involved a lot of crying. I’ve also implemented an elaborate bedtime routine one last feeding, one story, one bath and culminating in lulling her to sleep and I managed – over the course of several weeks – to bring her bedtime forward to 9:30pm. For the first time I could count on her to fall asleep at a reasonable time. I thought we figured it out.
Then, when she was two months old, everything changed again.
I followed her bedtime routine as usual, but this time she woke up thirty minutes later, crying inconsolably. Against my better judgment, I tried to feed her to calm her down, but it didn’t work. The crying stopped as soon as the feedings stopped and she refused to fall asleep until 2:30 a.m.
The next night the same thing happened again. This time I gave her to my husband, who rocked her for two hours while she wailed before finally falling asleep. At this point, the naps fell apart as well. She cried non-stop whenever I rocked her to sleep, often waking up five or ten minutes after I put her down.
I knew about sleep training and was totally willing to try the “cry it out” method—it couldn’t be worse than the crying I was enduring while rocking her to sleep—but all proponents of the method agreed unsuitable for babies under four months.
In the meantime I had to find another solution.
Some of the most common advice had already failed us. Bedtime didn’t work anymore, she hated pacifiers, playing white noise while I rocked her just made her cry a little less frantically, put her in the car and drive made her scream so loud she choked on her own saliva trying to comforting her in her crib did nothing.
It was obvious that she had to learn to fall asleep on her own, without crutches, or she would never sleep soundly again.
The problem was that I couldn’t find any concrete advice for that transitional period of between two and four months when screaming would be ok. The most common suggestions were variations on the same insanely vague ideas:
- Give your baby the opportunity to fall asleep independently
- Put your baby to bed sleepy but awake
Hypothetically these sound reasonable, but in practice they just don’t work. How are you supposed to let your baby fall asleep on their own if they cry when you put them to bed awake, but you shouldn’t let them cry at this age? And I know I’m not the only one whose baby went from “sleepy but awake” to “100% awake” when put in their own bed.
Finally, I stumbled across a few throwaway lines in a Article on the hospital’s website that described something I hadn’t seen before. It was a combination of “shhhh patch” and “pick up/drop” methods, neither of which had worked in isolation, and it was adapted to suit babies as young as two months. The article promised, “Every night will get a little easier, and pretty soon you’ll be able to put your baby down, say goodnight, and leave the room.” That promise floated before me like a mirage—enticing yet hard to believe.
The method worked as follows:
- Rock your baby until he is calm before putting him to bed.
- Put her in her crib. If they start crying, immediately soothe them in bed until they’re calm (the article didn’t specify how, so I used various combinations of stroking, rubbing, shhh, white noise, and just putting a hand on their stomach or head ).
- If this doesn’t work after 20-30 seconds, pick them up and rock them until they’re still before putting them down.
- Repeat until the baby finally falls asleep on his own.
The important parts for me were that it was easy to remember, it didn’t involve letting my daughter cry for a while, and she had to go from fully awake to fully asleep in her crib without crutches or parents in the present.
It had taken a while Hours to rock a crying baby to sleep In the last two nights, my bar for success has been very low. If she fell asleep before 2:30 am without crying inconsolably the entire time, I would consider that an improvement.
The first night went as I predicted. Putting my baby to bed awake made her cry immediately, and comforting her in bed did nothing. But because I only picked her up 20-30 seconds after she started, she never got to the point where she completely collapsed, so she calmed down as soon as she was in my arms. As the night progressed, she became sleepier and sleepier, finally falling asleep in bed alone at 11 p.m.
The next two nights were a bit more difficult. She fell asleep faster on her own, only to wake up ten minutes later and start fooling around again (more than once), making the whole process lengthy. Eventually, I discovered that bending over her and resting my head on her chest calmed her better than just patting her, which meant lifting her less and comforting her in bed. It took her two hours to fall asleep properly both nights, but I could tell she was getting used to falling asleep without help. We made progress and she slept before midnight every time.
Then something clicked.
The very next night she fell asleep on her own within ten minutes. I didn’t even have to pick her up; Just a few seconds of resting my cheek on her chest was enough to calm her down and after that she was calm.
I could not believe it. This promise—“Pretty soon you’ll be able to put your baby down, say goodnight and leave the room”– had been running through my mind each of the three nights for the last three, a light on the horizon pulling me forward without getting any closer. And yet I was here. It seemed too good to be true.
From there, it wasn’t a straight road to perfect sleep (Naps lasted a little longer pinning her down, for example), but from that point on, it never took more than ten minutes to soothe her at night using this method. And by the age of three months, she would fall asleep on her own at least twice a day without fuss or reassurance, usually before bed and for her first nap.
Now at seven months, our daughter is the only baby out of several dozen I know who doesn’t rely on sleeping crutches and can easily fall asleep on her own 100 percent of the time. We tolerate some crying at this point because going into her room to calm her down will only make it worse, but that only happens when she’s overtired.
Looking back, I’m grateful that she started refusing sleeping crutches at such a young age. Without those endless nights of thinking my baby would never sleep again, I might not have endured the hours of gentle sleep training it took him to learn to fall asleep on his own.
In the end, three long nights of tapping, rubbing, silence, and soothing were more than a fair price for the months of perfect sleep that followed.