You sang Hush Little Baby three times; you walked her around the neighbourhood to get some fresh air; you even did the unmentionable and laid her down beside you in the parental bed.
And yet your baby still isn’t sleeping.
Teaching your baby to adopt healthy sleep patterns is a process much debated. Everyone and their mothers have opinions on what to do to soothe those night time cries – not only those of the baby, but the cries of tired parents too.
“No matter how tired you are, don’t forget that you are trying to set the stage for your baby’s long-term sleep behaviour,” says Andrea Howick, fellow co-founder of WhereParentsTalk.com. “So even if you notice they always fall asleep on their stomach, or while they’re bouncing around in their swing, there are some things that simply aren’t good for your baby when it comes to sleep.”
According to a recent TheBabyCorner.com Q&A, it’s important to avoid letting your baby develop a “sleep crutch.” That is, only falling asleep after being rocked for an hour or co-sleeping. Current research maintains that putting your baby on their back and in their crib is simply the safest place and position for sleeping. It avoids the risk of suffocation as a result of co-sleeping, prevents chocking from being on their stomach, and it leaves parents to maintain a strong relationship and get much needed sleep.
So what happens when you want to correct the problem and start getting your baby into a better sleeping routine?
“Unfortunately, you might have to let them cry it out,” says Lianne Castelino, mother of three and co-founder of WhereParentsTalk.com. “While she may be heavy-eyed when you place her in her crib due a baby’s initially light sleep state, she’ll cry for the sleep crutch that you’ve enabled – whether it’s being in your bed or in your arms as you rock her. But be diligent, go in to see her every few minutes during the crying to provide some comfort, and don’t pick her up. Know that eventually she’ll fall asleep and that you’re doing the right thing.”
Developing healthy sleep routines with your baby sets the stage for healthy behaviours for years to come, not only when it comes to bed time, but a host of other situations. More specifically, always doing what your baby wants when she cries could lead your child to believe they can always get their way with a few tears – something that can’t be solved by getting through a few weepy nights.
Need more information on getting your baby to sleep?
Watch Liandrea Production’s We Need Some Sleep video for even more information on how to get your baby to sleep and baby sleep patterns.
Read WhereParentsTalk.com’s Putting Baby To Bed: Question and Answer with Alberta-based sleep experts Allison Naidu and Adrienne MacQueen.
Putting Baby To Bed: Question and Answer
Allison Naidu and Adrienne MacQueen are sleep consultants based in Edmonton, Alberta. Both physical therapists, they have worked in pediatric and community settings and set up their company, Sleep Matters, four years ago after both becoming parents. Allison and Adrienne found a lack of information and support for parents regarding sleep and their newborns, leading to them to partner their know-how and experience with local physicians to lead group classes to help parents get their children sleeping soundly.
WhereParentsTalk.com: What are the most common mistake parents make when it comes to babies and their sleep?
Allison and Adrienne: The three most common mistakes that parents make regarding sleep are not allowing their babies the opportunity to self-soothe, not recognizing how much sleep a baby requires and knowing when their child is tired.
WPT.com: What are some coping strategies you recommend for the sleep deprived parent?
A and A: In terms of coping strategies, we feel that if a parent is at the point of being sleep-deprived or has ‘had enough’, they need to first take care of their sleep and then look for help! Parents need respite to make sure they get proper rest. Using a spouse, partner, family member or friend is of prime importance.
After getting some proper rest, parents need to learn how to get their baby to sleep. Parents could look on the internet, read books, look for local community classes, talk to other parents who have figured out how to get their children to sleep, and talk to their doctor.
In certain cases, a baby may have medical sleep disorder. A diagnosis from a doctor would be very helpful in such a case.
WPT.com: How about coping strategies when for the mom suffering from post partum depression (PPD)?
A and A: Post partum depression is a medical condition that needs evaluation by a medical doctor. Once post partum depression is diagnosed and under control, then the mother could look at learning new strategies to help her baby get to sleep.
WPT.com: How long should you let a baby cry it out?
A and A: The cry-it-out (CIO) method should only be used if and when a baby or child is not overtired. Parents must be knowledgeable about specific drowsy signs in order to be successful with this method. Drowsy signs include becoming quieter during play, disinterested in surroundings, drooping eyelids, etc. When these drowsy signs are first noticed, your baby must be put to bed.
The general rules are to allow the baby to cry for maximum of 60 minutes during naps and indefinitely for nighttime sleep. If a baby is overtired, then the CIO method will likely not work. Overtired signs may include rubbing eyes, irritability, being wound-up, and hyperactive. In this case, your baby may need to be rocked, held and then put to bed after falling asleep.
Have more questions for Allison and Adrienne? Contact them at YourSleepMatters.com.