Nothing can prepare new parents for the mind numbing weariness that comes with lack of sleep. A new baby may be tiny but the havoc they wreak to your sleep is huge. It can take work to establish good sleeping habits. One of the hardest things for your baby is to learn to fall asleep on his own.
I firmly believe that parents need to reclaim their evenings. Babies and young children need to go to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can enjoy some adult time (Even if that just means crashing out on the sofa in front of the TV) What you don’t want is to be running up and downstairs all evening in response to the baby monitor!
Baby is used to falling asleep with a parent. It may be tempting to rock that crying baby to sleep – it may seem quicker but in the long run you are not helping your baby to learn that sleep is something he needs to do alone.
If you establish a bedtime routine which you stick to every night and after several months your baby will still not fall asleep you might like to try the Ferber Method. Dr. Richard Ferber sets out a schedule that will gradually encourage your baby to sleep without you. This will include getting off to sleep in the first place but will have a knock on effect if baby wakes up during the night.
If you decide to try the Ferber Method choose a time when you can afford to loose some sleep. It will take a couple of weeks of hard work but the rewards will be long term and permanent.
Essentially the Ferber method encourages you to gradually wean your baby from falling asleep with a parent. It does involve listening to your baby cry – so steal yourself to this.
The first night you put your baby to bed as usual (a calm bedtime routine is essential) Baby should
be sleepy but still awake when you put him down (You want him to fall asleep alone – not in your arms)
Leave the room. When baby starts to cry (as he inevitably will) sit it out for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes return to the bedroom and soothe baby. You must not pick him up or rock him – just a gentle stroke or pat so that he knows you are close by. Leave the room again and this time wait 10 minutes before you return. Again sooth but do not pick up baby. Leave again and this time wait 15 minutes.
Make 15 minutes the maximum wait time for the rest of the night. Return to the bedroom – sooth and leave. During one of the 15 minutes he will fall asleep.
On the second night start with a ten minute wait and work up to 20 minutes.
On the third night start with a 15 minutes and work up to 25
Each night increase the times by 5 minutes.
These time intervals are not cast in stone – make them smaller if you wish but it’s really important that you don’t cave. It can seem heartbreaking to listen to your baby cry. But you are close by, it’s a plan not indifference.
I used the Ferber method with my daughter, when she was a toddler. We had not experienced sleep problems when she was a baby in a crib. The difficulties started when we transferred her to a bed. The night time “pantomime” got more and more elaborate as she extended the time I was in the room with her. She used every trick in the book to get me back into her bedroom and to delay the time when she settled down to sleep.
By the time I came across Dr Ferber’s book I was desperate. It was taking longer and longer every night to get her off to sleep but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to leave my daughter to cry. In fact most times I was sitting on the stairs crying too. My husband encouraged me stick at it and I’m glad that we did. It really did just take a couple of weeks to set up a pattern that lasted all through her childhood. I found that I could spend some enjoyable bedtimes, reading stories etc, confident that when I said “goodnight” she would snuggle down and go to sleep without any fuss