One of the top issues that parents continue to struggle with is how to put baby to sleep. Obviously there are other more serious and even controversial topics, but the issue of putting baby to sleep is a real one.
Is there one magical answer? Not really, but we have compiled a list of top suggestions that have worked for many parents just like you!
The "Cry it Out" Controversy
Who's right or wrong? According to Dr. Sears, letting a child "cry it out" is the worst thing that a parent can do.
"Once you appreciate the special signal value of your baby's cry, the important thing is what you do about it," he writes. "You have two basic options, ignore or respond. Ignoring your baby's cry is usually a lose-lose situation. A more compliant baby gives up and stops signaling, becomes withdrawn, eventually realizes that crying is not worthwhile, and concludes that he is not worthwhile. The baby loses the motivation to communicate with his parents, and the parents miss out on opportunities to get to know their baby. Everyone loses."
Of course there are those who differ with this theory. Dr. Richard Ferber, the Director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston and author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems takes a different view.
While he does believe that parents should intervene when a baby cries, he takes a different approach toward response times. He recommends increasing the increments of time that a baby is allowed to cry once he or she is put down to sleep, beginning with five minutes the first day and increasing the time over several days up to 25 minutes if necessary.
Which method is right for your baby? Only you can really answer that question.
Putting a Baby to Sleep
It's important to create a good sleep environment for your baby. Just as you enjoy sleeping in your nice, cozy bed, your baby will develop preferences as well. Some of these preferences can actually be manipulated by you, however. How to put baby to sleep is just as important as where to put baby to sleep. Remember these helpful tips:
- Establish a routine. Babies thrive on schedules and routines, so it is important to create a sleep pattern for your baby. This could involve a warm bath, clean change of clothes, and a good book. Eventually, these activities will signal to your baby that it is time for bed.
- Choose a time. While of course circumstances will sometimes dictate a change in your baby's bedtime, it is important to stick to a schedule as much as possible. Your baby's body will become adjusted to a certain bedtime and respond easier to that bedtime if you try to keep it the same almost every day.
- Create a good sleep environment. This doesn't mean that your baby's room must be completely quiet, however. If you have older children, you already know how impossible that can be! In fact, a too-quiet room can make it difficult for a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. Consider using a white noise machine, such as a fan that is run on low. Keep the temperature at a comfortable degree, neither too warm nor too cool, and dress baby appropriately.
- Use a night light. You might want to consider using a baby night light for the first few months. When you need to feed or change baby, keep the lighting low and don't talk or interact with your baby more than necessary if he wakes up in the night.
- Know your baby's signals. Learn your baby's signals. He'll let you know when he is getting tired, especially at naptimes. Again, it is important to develop a routine, so pay attention to his behavior.
- Soothe your baby. Whether or not you believe in the crying it out method, you can still soothe your baby into a sleepy state. Read or sing quietly to her. Rock her or walk quietly around the room with her in your arms. As she begins to get drowsy, gently lay her in her crib. If you can do this while she is still awake, eventually she'll learn to fall to sleep on her own. For those who enjoy rocking, however, you can look for the limp limb signal that lets you know she is in a deep slumber before you place her in the bed.