Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How To Get a Baby To Sleep Alone

When my baby was born everyone told me that you cannot spoil a baby, that you cannot hold them too much. Well, I don't know if that's true, but I do know that my little girl did not sleep in her own bed until she was almost 4 months old! She was perfectly content being held or sleeping in bed with mommy and daddy. 

When Emma was a few days old she started not wanting to be put down, at all! She woke up the second you put her down, she screamed when she got a bath or a diaper change and she hated the swing we had bought her. Every baby is different. Some won't mind being put down to sleep, and others like mine, just aren't having it. If this is how your baby is, just know that you are not alone! I must have tried everything until she finally started to be alright with laying in her own bed. I remember being excited for her to even lay in her bed for 15 mins by herself, it was just THAT bad. 

There was one morning when Emma was about a week old and she started crying and her dad picked her up, I was asleep. He woke me up and I begged him to hold her for a few more minutes (I averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep a day, so I was desperate), but he had to leave to go to work. then he said, "She wants you anyway". He handed her to me and she instantly stopped crying a fell asleep on my chest. I was very reluctant, to be the "co-sleeper parent". But like I said, I was desperate. So, she slept with me for 4 hours, the longest she had slept ever!  Through out the next day, I tried to get her to sleep alone, and when I got really desperate, I gave in. 

I was nursing at the time, so I would lay on my side, and lay her next to me and nurse. I would burp her and then she would fall asleep next to me. Sometimes I would fall asleep while I was nursing. I was so nervous about her laying with me that I would wake up every hour. I had to lay on my side because of nursing her, and even after nursing, there wasn't much room left. It was kind of uncomfortable, but I was getting some much needed sleep. After I caught up on a little sleep, we started to really try and get her to sleep in her own bed. At 4 months old she finally, slept in her own bed for 8 hours. By 6 months she was completely on a schedule: 2, 2 hour naps a day and bed for 12 hours a night. It might have took me longer than it will take someone else, but I'm proud of having a sleeping baby in her own bed. 

These are some of the things I tried. If one doesn't work for you, try another one. Just don't give up! Everything a baby does is a phase, so enjoy the cute one's and remember that the tough one's won't last long!

1. Make a Bedtime and Nap Time Routine
This is the most important thing. Start with a bed time routine, do the same thing every night, so they know what is coming. Then, do something similar for nap time, so they began to make connections with the routine and time to sleep. Younger babies don't need scheduled naps because they sleep so much. But when they are a little older, you can put them on scheduled naps and feedings (which is great!). If you don't pick their bed time, they might make their own bed time and not want to sleep until 2 am. Go here to see my article on ideas for making a routine that works for you.

2. Try a Pacifier. 
Emma, my stubborn baby, wouldn't take one. She tried it for the first few days, but then realized it wasn't giving her milk. She also only took one bottle, The Tommee Tippee Bottles (sold at Babies R Us). Try a pacifier, if you are really set on getting your baby to use one and they won't take it, try a bunch of different brands, the Soothie Pacifiers are one of the most popular pacifiers. The same style comes in different brands, and this is what most hospitals use. Just keep putting it back in their mouth when they spit it out. If they still never take to it (like my baby), at least you don't have to wean them off the pacifier! 

Ways to get your baby to take a pacifier:
1. Soak the pacifier in sugar water in the fridge. 
2. Use a pacifier medicine taker and fill it with breast milk, formula, or sugar water. 
3. Use the bottle nipples as a pacifier. 

3. Swaddle Them
This imitates the womb when they were so tight they could hardly move. Try swaddling your little one, some babies love it and others hate it. Learn how to correctly swaddle a baby here

4. Rock Your Baby to Sleep
Remember how your little one kept you up all night kicking when you were pregnant? That's because you moving through out the day would put them to sleep, so they were awake when you wanted to sleep. Rocking the imitates how they feel asleep in the womb. You can try a glider or rocking chair, most people get these for the nursery. You can even bounce you baby in an up down motion while rocking around. Rocking them will put them into a deeper sleep and they might not wake up when you move them to their own bed. 

5. Keep the Lights Low
Try to keep it dark, don't turn on a light when you go to get them from their crib if they haven't slept. Let them know that when it's dark, its time to sleep. You might have to buy black out curtains for the babies room, so that it stays dark. 

6. Keep Them The Right Temperature
Try to cover them with a blanket, or put them in a sleeping shirts for babies. Make sure that they aren't to hot or to cold. Dress them in the right clothes and make sure your temperature in the house follows. We had to close her vents sometimes because it would get too cold in our babies room. Sometimes babies will get overheated when they are swaddled or when they are crying. 

7. Stay Quiet
Never yell at your baby. If you get frustrated walk away, take a few deep breaths and come back. They can't help it, they don't know what to do. If your baby won't sleep don't talk to them, or to someone else. Don't talk on the phone or watch tv if you rock them. Try to stay quiet and talk them in a low soothing voice letting them know that its ok. 

8. Play Music
We didn't have a cd player and cd.. but we did have an old phone and an sd card. So we have a phone that plays music in her room constantly. You can get the baby lullaby songs, or the baby classical music. We played Enya for a while, because she has really soft music that I used to play to help me sleep when I was pregnant. Music can help sooth the baby. If you want, you can even record yourself singing your babies favorite lullaby and play that. It would be just like you were in the room singing to them.

9. Sing to Them
I am a terrible singer, but my baby doesn't think so! :) She loves to be rocked and sung to sleep. You can sing anything, but learning lullabies isn't so bad either. I even made up my own song for her. After you lay your baby down keep singing. Sing until you slowly walk out of the room. If they start to cry, move into their eye sight and keep singing. It might take a while, but staying in their eye sight lets the know that they are still safe in the crib. 

10. Make Their Bed Soft
Baby mattresses are hard, and it is not recommended to lay them on pillows or anything that can conform around their face and be hazardous of suffocation. But, they do sell mattress covers, that go under the sheet and makes the crib bed softer. With the bassinet, you can wrap the mattress in a soft blanket, but make sure there are no ends sticking up.

11. Make Them Full
If your baby is fairly less than 4 months old, nurse them, or bottle feed them. Some babies fall asleep eating. Let them be completely full and then try to get them to sleep. For older babies, try rice cereal. Some people put it in their bottle before they go to bed, because it helps them stay full longer. This isn't recommended, its more recommended to have them learn that they are full from a spoon. But you can do what is best for your family. 

12. Lay Them on Their Side
Some babies like to lay in different positions. Try laying your baby on their side and see if they will sleep better in a new position. 

13. Lay Them on Their Tummy
This is what worked for my baby. I would rock her to sleep and then lay her on her tummy, when she would start to fuss I would pat her back/bottom, and she would go back to sleep. Eventually, I had to pat her less and less, but at first, I might stand there for almost and hour before she would finally fall back asleep and stay asleep. If you do this, make sure your baby can hold their head up enough to turn it to the other side. The first time you try this, I recommend watching them on a camera screen baby monitor or going into the room every 15 mins, just to make sure that they aren't laying face down on their mattress. 

14. Prop Their Mattress Up
For some reason babies sleep better when laying at an angle. Even in the hospital they prop their beds up at an angle. You can put some blankets under neath the mattress (crib or bassinet), but just at a small angle, nothing dramatic. 

15. Put Mommy's clothes in the crib or bassinet
A baby knows it's mommies smell, and it comforts them. Put the clothes you wear that day in the crib (yes, the dirty spit up on clothes that you wore that day). If they are clean, they won't smell like you. If you wear perfume everyday, you can even try spraying a little on the clothes before you put it in the babies crib. I have done this several different ways: putting it above or next to the baby, laying the clothes flat underneath the baby, wrapping the baby in the clothes and rolling the clothes up in a log style roll and laying them next to the baby. This method tries to trick the baby into thinking that you are still there.

16. Warm Blankets
Babies love to be warm. You can put a blanket, towel, their bed sheet, or even your clothes (from #15) into the dryer and try to wrap them in it, lay them on it, or roll it up in a log style roll next to them. I felt very silly putting a shirt that had spit up on it into the dryer, and then into my babies crib, but if it helps both of us get some sleep I would be a very happy mommy!

17. Lay a Pillow Next To Them
If you put a pillow or a rolled up blanket next to them, it helps to trick them into thinking that someone is still laying with them.

18. The Cry It Out Method
I personally, don't believe in this. When Emma got out of the hospital she had jaundice, so she had to be on a bellibed (looks like a baby tanning bed) all day. The longer she was on there the more she hated it. But the doctor simply explained to me that crying doesn't hurt her, and that she would eventually stop. The truth is: Hearing them cry hurts you more than it hurts them. Babies need to know its bed time, and that they are not going to be held all the time. Put them in their bed asleep, if they wake up leave them for 5 -10 minutes. If they stop, or sound like they might be falling asleep but the cry again, start counting all over. If you have to go get them, put them back to sleep, and do the process over. It might take a week or so, but eventually, they will stop crying so much. But at least they know you will always come back for them. 

19. Car Rides
This may be the most overused new baby fear, that you will have to drive them around in the middle of the night. Emma would fall right asleep in the car and most of the time, she stayed asleep in her car seat when we carried it in somewhere. She would cry when you slowed down or stopped at red light. I would be lying if I said I didn't drive her around a couple times at 3 or 6 am. Car rides work, but use them as a last resort. You don't want your baby getting dependent on falling asleep like that.

20. Let Them Sleep With You
Many people love co-sleeping. I wasn't comfortable with it, it made me more nervous and woke everyone up a lot more. I won't lie. She would spit up on my bed, kick me, and one time she leaked through her diaper and I woke up with my face laying on a wet bed sheet. The only good thing was that she slept a lot longer, I didn't have to get up through the night and that I knew she was safe. She also learned to fall asleep on her own, which may have helped her in the long run. 

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