What do you do when your beautiful bundle of joy has turned into a night shifter that seems to enjoy the darker hours better than the daylight?
You blink your bleary eyes and rub your weary head and try and remember all the wise and experienced advice that your family and friends gave you so unsolicited many weeks before when they all so graciously came to welcome the precious new addition to your excited family.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Swaddle your baby. The nurses in the hospital are pros at this, but the average sleep deprived parent can also learn. The “Parents” magazine website has a wonderful explanation on how to do this, but you can also purchase swaddling blankets that do the work for you. This maneuver comforts the baby and mimics the snugness of the womb, relaxing the baby enough to sleep.
2. When your baby is too old to swaddle, a nightly routine before bedtime will help ease your baby into sleep mode. Reading to your baby, followed by a warm bath, rocking and singing until your baby is drowsy, and then laying him or her down in the crib still awake will help promote self-soothing techniques that he or she will need to learn to fall asleep.
3. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding before sleep is wonderful, however do not let the baby fall asleep with the bottle if bottle feeding. This will cause dependence on the bottle to fall asleep, is dangerous due to possible choking, and is a very difficult habit to break. If your baby falls asleep while feeding, gently wiggle her foot to try and keep her awake during feeding.
4. Infants cry when they need something, and when you’ve made sure that all of their other needs have been met, sometimes they just need that little extra holding and snuggling to let them know that all is okay with the world.
5. Baby swings can be a sleep deprived parent’s life preserver. The swaying motion calms and soothes, while the humming noise that some of them make is a wonderful white noise to simulate being in the womb.
6. The two a.m. car ride is still one of my favorites when a colicky baby just cannot be settled. Even the most hysterical child can be soothed with this, although it is very disrupting for mom or dad, but the idea is to get the baby to sleep, right?
7. Toys that are safe for babies and that hang on the crib rail such as those with soothing lights and nature sounds are wonderful for babies that have a hard time tuning out the busy world. I used one that played lullabies and had ocean sounds that lulled my children to sleep.
8. Soothing massage with lavender scented lotions approved for babies also worked wonders for me. Just make sure to test a tiny amount on the baby first to make sure there are no skin reactions. The internet can be a wonderful teaching tool for learning baby massage.
9. A walk in a stroller, weather permitting ,is also relaxing for both baby and mom and if you can’t rely on the weather, go to a local mall, or department store. The noise may actually be what the baby needs, instead of total quiet.
10. And lastly, if none of the previous suggestions work to convince your sweet child to sleep, Ferberize your baby. This is a method introduced by Pediatrician Richard Ferber, and was the only method that worked for my first born. It is a controversial method that involves letting your baby cry and learn to soothe himself. There are lots of variations on this method, and all can be found on the internet. The one that worked for me was this:
After a snuggly and calm bed routine, put your baby in his crib sleepy, but awake. Say goodnight then turn the lights o ff and leave the room. When your baby starts crying, wait five minutes then go back in, comfort and touch, but do not pick up. When your baby is calm, then leave the room again. This time when he cries, wait ten minutes, go back, comfort and touch but do not pick up. Each time increase the amount of time that you wait to go back in, and each time, comfort but don’t pick up. This may take a long time to work, even a week or two, but don’t give in, even when you are crying harder than your child. You are not abandoning him, you are there for comfort and reassurance, but each child has to learn to fall asleep on his own. Eventually he will fall asleep more quickly each night knowing that you are there for reassurance is needed.
Let me stress one thing. This method is not for young infants in my opinion. They need to know that all of their needs are being met, even comfort and closeness when needed at all times. I would only use this method when your child is around six months old or older and not sleeping on his own.