We can’t get our baby to sleep in his own crib. We feel like we have tried everything, but nothing works, so we end up letting him sleep in our bed. We are sleep deprived. What can we do?
D., Rhode Island
Dear D., I’m so sorry this is happening. I feel your pain. Sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult parts of becoming a new mother. When your baby is not sleeping in his own crib, it becomes even more unbearable for everyone.
When my son was an infant, he refused to fall asleep in his crib. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle and he would fall asleep in the baby carrier just fine. But every time we tried to place him in the crib, he would wake up and cry. We tried positioning him in the crib on his side with special pediatrician-recommended pads. We’d rub his back and he would drift off for a minute or two. Then he would wake up and cry. The reality was simple: He was addicted to sleeping in his carrier.
The good news is, eventually, he did start sleeping through the night in his crib. I will share how it worked for us, based on personal experience. But I must preface my advice by saying that not all babies are the same. Every family has different opinions and solutions.
But I will share what worked for us. It all comes down to 11 simple words. Yes 11 words that, based on personal experience, could help you and your baby in less than a week. It’s not going to be easy. But it worked for us.
Let him cry it out for three nights in a row.
Yes, I support letting your baby cry it out.
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Be consistent. You have to be committed to letting your baby cry it out for a certain period of time (ie: three nights in a row) in order for this method to work.
- The goal of the cry-it-out method is to help your baby soothe himself to sleep.
- How it works: While he is still awake, put your baby in the crib, give him a gentle pat on the back, softly whisper “good night,” then leave the room. Expect some protesting and lots of crying. Let him cry for a full five minutes. Then go back in and repeat the original routine — a quick pat, a gentle "good night" and leave the room. Repeat this process for as long as your baby cries, increasing the time you leave him alone by about five minutes each time until he falls asleep. Extend the times he spends on his own by a few minutes the second night, and again on the third.
- Be patient. This method is often harder on the parent than it is on the baby. Take turns with your spouse to help support one another and help monitor your child’s progress.
- Not all mothers agree. This type of sleep method has become a subject of debate in recent months. However, the journal Developmental Psychology released a study supporting the notion that a majority of infants over the age of 6 months may best be left to self-soothe and fall back to sleep on their own. (From CNN article; http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/24/health/child-sleep-debate-enayati)
- Make sure your baby is at an appropriate age. If he is under three months old, still needs to be swaddled, or has more than two night feedings, it’s best to hold off on this option.
- Although the “cry it out” solution worked for us, it’s not for every mom.
- Talk to your pediatrician about the best method for your baby.
- Read books, articles and blogs to educate yourself more about the best options for your baby. If you do decide to try this method, be prepared to repeat #1. It will not help if you try the “cry it out” method for one night and then let him sleep in your bed. It only works if you’re consistent.
Jackie is a local writer and pr professional who blogs about her take on motherhood at www.ventingsessions.com and writes about it in her book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker.