This is a reprint of a blog I posted on my personal [password protected family-friends] blog on March 28, 2008, before Steven was born. I’m planning on putting together some post-baby thoughts, so I’m putting this up in preparation.
I’ve been reading lots of baby books, particularly baby books that have to do with sleep and soothing:
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
- The Lull-a-Baby Sleep Plan by Cathryn Tobin
- Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
- On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo
While reading each book, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused as each author seems to have their own conflicting theory. One of my projects yesterday was to write down some notes and distill the information from each book so that I could get a birds-eye view and perhaps pull out some general principles that Steve and I would try. To my surprise, there was a lot more agreement between the books than I had originally thought there would be.
The Happiest Baby on the Block
- General idea: How to soothe your crying baby. Some babies may be fussier than others and require more soothing, but the 5-step method should work for all babies.
- Author’s theory: Babies need a “fourth trimester” with womb-like conditions to avoid excessive crying/colic.
The 5 step method in brief, which is great for the first 2-4 months:
- Swaddling tightly – won’t necessarily “soothe” the baby, but does keep their arms from flailing about and will get their attention
- Side/stomach – holding the baby on their side/stomach keeps them from experiencing the falling reflex (note that this position is only while soothing them; babies should sleep on their back to prevent SIDS)
- Shushing – providing “white noise” at the intensity of the baby’s cry by going “shhhhhh”; can extend this further by providing a recording or other form of white noise (vacuum cleaner, static, etc.)
- Swinging – providing a slight head “jiggle” mimics the movement that the baby may have felt in the womb
- Sucking – using a pacifier or allowing the baby to suck your finger is like the icing on the cake and may soothe the baby enough so that they can sleep
About scheduling/routines: The author doesn’t advocate or discourage scheduling, but does say that you can start trying a “schedule” at about 1-2 months and increasing time between feedings to 3 hours. He advocates waking the baby up to feed them if they start to sleep over 4 hours so that they don’t get over-hungry.
The Lull-a-Baby Sleep Plan
- General idea: Your baby can learn to sleep through the night when they are 2-4 months old. You can teach your baby to sleep in a soothing way that doesn’t involve crying. Your baby should fall asleep in bed, not in your arms, a swing, etc.
- Author’s theory: There are specific physiological signs that show when your baby is ready to learn to sleep through the night. You have a “window of opportunity” (basically between 2-4 months) to teach your baby how to sleep through the night.
The physiological signs that your baby is ready to learn how to sleep through the night:
- From 6-8 weeks:
- can hold up head
- can track object with eyes
- gazes at you and smiles
- coos back at you
- recognizes and calms to parents’ voices
- can suck voluntarily
- From 2-4 months:
- can babble
- imitates facial expressions
- interested in external world
- plays independently for 10-15 minutes
- close to rolling over
- uses body language to show emotions (scrunching up face)
Getting your baby to sleep:
- The setup (getting an environment conducive to sleep):
- White noise
- Sucking (pacifier)
- Consistent sleep location
- Bedtime routine (dimming lights, reading, etc.)
- Put the baby to bed while tired but still awake
- “Lulling” your baby to sleep
- Lay the baby in their bed and then use your voice to “talk them down” until they fall asleep
- If they cry, use a perkier voice to get their attention, then lower your voice after they are calmer. If necessary, pick them up to soothe them, then lay them back down while still awake and try again.
- If using a pacifier, let them fall asleep with it but don’t stick it back in after it falls out.
Note: Many babies have peak fussiness at 6 weeks.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
- General idea: More of a general “how to take care of your baby” book. Setting up a routine is a good idea. You can learn your baby’s body language and cries.
- Author’s theory: Respect your baby as an individual.
The routine (for the first three months, this will run every 2.5-3 hours):
- Eat – feed the baby. For the first 3 months, this may be 30-40 minutes.
- Activity – change the baby, play with the baby, keep them awake. This may be up to 45 minutes.
- Sleep – put the baby down to sleep. It may take the baby 15 minutes to fall asleep, and they may sleep for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. The baby should be put in bed while still awake. Swaddling and white noise may help.
- You – “you” time — take a nap, get chores done, etc.
During the day, you should wake the baby up for their next feeding so that they don’t get too hungry.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
- General idea: It’s your role as the parent to train your child to sleep well.
- Author’s theory: Sleep needs change as the child develops and grows. Sleep is very important — research shows that children learn better and are more adaptable when they get more sleep.
Sleep by age:
- Week 1: Disregard the clock and follow the baby’s cues for feeding, changing, sleeping.
- Weeks 2-4: Expect irregularity. Still follow the baby’s cues. If they sleep well anywhere and are “portable,” great — but if not, provide a nice environment for them to sleep.
- Weeks 5-8: Night sleep becomes more organized with longer sleep periods. Baby may develop their own “schedule.” You should definitely put them to bed if they’ve been awake for 2 hours so they don’t get overtired. (The 2 hours includes 1/2 hour to 1 hour of “soothing” the baby and getting them ready to sleep.) It’s okay if the baby cries while going to sleep; they will develop self-soothing skills. Note: Many babies have peak fussiness at 6 weeks.
- Months 3-4: Baby gets more interactive and may fight sleep. Again, no more than 2 hours of wakefulness. Two methods of getting baby to sleep: Put the baby to bed while still awake but sleepy, or, hold the baby until they fall asleep and then put the baby to bed. Motionless sleep is important for sleep quality (i.e., not in car, stroller, or swing).
- Months 4-12: Baby should have a general sleeping schedule at this point with 3 naps during the day. Some babies may still require one or two night feedings. Once they go to bed, leave them there until they fall asleep, even if they cry.
- Don’t be selfish: Protect the baby’s need to sleep by not scheduling in too much activity, dragging the baby around with you when they should be napping, or keeping the baby up too late (even if one parent works late and hasn’t seen the baby).
- Put your baby to bed before they are over-tired. This may mean an earlier bedtime. Keeping the baby up later at night does NOT result in having them “sleep in” in the morning.
- Let the baby cry when going to bed. They will learn to self-soothe.
- Find the baby’s own “schedule” and sleep rhythms, but if there are still sleep problems by 4 months, you may need to “help” them set a schedule.
On Becoming Baby Wise
- General idea: You can get your baby on a routine/schedule, but you should still use common sense instead of strictly following the clock.
- Author’s theory: Setting a routine early on for the baby encourages consistency so that you can better interpret the baby’s cries and needs.
- Feeding too frequently (i.e., every hour) may keep the baby from getting the rich hindmilk so they are hungrier and/or don’t grow. Feeding every 2.5-3 hours is the goal for the first 4 months.
- Count wet and dirty diapers and pay attention to how the baby is feeding to make sure they are getting enough to eat.
- Set a general routine for the baby of eating, awake time, and sleeping.
- The baby may cry when going to sleep. That’s okay.
Routine by age:
- First two weeks: No schedule, just focus on learning how to breastfeed and making sure your child gets full feedings. Newborns may have a hard time staying awake, so focus on keeping them awake through feedings.
- Weeks 2-4: Establish a 2.5-3 hour routine (eating, awake, sleep). Wake the baby if necessary to feed them at least every 3 hours. Exception is at night — let the baby sleep and wake up on their own unless they sleep over 5 hours; also, nix the “awake” part of the routine during the night feedings.
- Weeks 5-8: Continue the 2.5-3 hour routine, adjusting it to the needs of the baby (if they need more or less feedings). The baby may learn to sleep through the night on their own.
- Weeks 9-15: Baby will probably start sleeping through the night on their own (if they haven’t already) for 9-10 hours. May increase time between feedings to 4 hours.
- Weeks 16-24: Solid foods introduced, but still breastfeeding 5-7 times a day.
- Most of the books advocate swaddling, white noise, infant massage, and a soothing pre-bedtime ritual for at least the first 3-4 months.
- Most of the books advocate putting the child to bed while sleepy-awake and allowing the child to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, even if this involves some crying. Exception: Lull-a-baby sleep plan has you talk the baby to sleep. Healthy Sleep Habits also has alternative “let baby fall asleep on you” method for months 3-4.
- Some of the books suggest that the baby can sleep through the night somewhere between 6 weeks to 3 or 4 months, and you can “help” them to do it:
- Lull-a-baby: Look for the “window of opportunity” and set up a conducive sleep environment.
- Baby Wise: By setting a routine early on, the baby naturally starts sleeping through the night on their own.
- Most of the books advise that you wake the baby up to feed them after __ amount of time since their last feeding so that they don’t get too hungry.
- Happiest Baby on the Block: 4 hours
- Baby Whisperer: 3 hours
- Baby Wise: 3 hours during day, 5 hours at night
- Most of the books suggest feeding every 3 hours or so for the first several months. Some of the books don’t think you should care about getting a routine/schedule for the first couple months, however (Happiest Baby on the Block, Healthy Sleep Habits).
So, I definitely feel armed with information! Based on observation of our friends with their babies and our own personalities and lifestyle, I think Steve and I will tend more towards a schedule/routine than not. And we’ll probably do the swaddling/white noise thing for the first few months. But aside from that, we’ll be learning as we go!
Some of these books were also reviewed in other posts…