Be assured that if you are having a hard time with a crying baby at night, you are not alone. Most new parents struggle with a crying baby either at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion can make your baby go to bed without crying. However, there are things you can do to remedy the situation so that you and baby get some much-needed sleep.
A crying baby leaves parents exhausted, frustrated, and wondering how on earth they will ever get a good night’s sleep again. If you are one of those parents that are struggling with a crying baby before bed or in the middle of the night, then consider sleep training. Sleep training, is not one method of training your baby not to cry at night. Instead, it is a way to find the bedtime routine that works best for both you and baby.
Before you begin sleep training, it is vital to know that all babies are different. What might be working for your best friend and her baby will not necessarily work for you – and that’s okay. There is no sleep training method set in stone for every single baby.
Since the beginning of time, there have been two primary way to get your little one to sleep at night. One involves laying the baby down for bed and choosing to let it cry until he or she falls asleep. The other involves taking the time to soothe the baby before bed in order to (hopefully) prevent crying altogether. Parents must decide for themselves which method is right for the entire family. If you are in a two-parent household, be sure that both of you are on the same page, because consistency is the key to setting a firm routine.
Method #1 – Letting Your Baby Cry Out
Although the “cry it out” method is exhausting for parents, experts that recommend this way of sleep training believe that it is healthy for a baby to learn to soothe himself. They feel that it is not traumatic for a baby to cry alone (for short periods). As long as you are around to check on the baby, then everything will be all right. Experts that back the crying out approach believe that if you go to the baby every time it cries, there is a chance of the child becoming overly dependent on you. They also believe that soothing a baby every time he or she cries can make it harder for the baby to learn how to go to sleep on its own. Only you can decide if you feel that it’s appropriate to let your baby cry himself to sleep.
Method #2 – The No-Tears Approach
The “no tears” approach is quite the opposite of the cry it out method. Experts that recommend this method believe that you must find a way to soothe your baby before bedtime. This sleep training method takes more time on the parent’s part, because you cannot simply lay your baby down at night. The no-tear solution for sleeping is more of a customized method. It involves finding out what soothes your baby in order for him or her to feel comfy and get sleepy. This can mean nightly rituals of rocking, bedtime stories, songs, a warm bath, or a back rub. No two babies are the same and if you choose this method, it’s up to you to decide what it is that gets your baby in the mood for bedtime.
It’s important to understand that both of these methods work. No one can tell you which method will work for your baby. Every parent must figure out which sleep training method is best for everyone involved. Keep in mind that pediatric experts don’t even agree on how to put a baby down for bed at night. There is no right or wrong choice; it is merely a matter of what works for each individual baby.
In addition to getting your baby to sleep at night, there is also the issue of waking up in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, parenting requires a lot of intuition so you must learn to know what your baby’s cries mean. What experts do agree on is that if an infant is hungry or needs a diaper changing, you must attend to him, no matter what time of night it is.
Experts also agree that when you have to feed or change the baby in the middle of the night, do not play with him. This can be hard because your little one is so darn cute and cuddly, but stimulating the child will only want to make him stay awake.
When handling nighttime issues, you should feed or change the baby without too much commotion and lay him back down to sleep. If your baby cries, you must follow whichever method of sleep training you chose. Remember that consistency is the key to finding a routine that makes everyone happy. Routines can be hard to follow, especially at 3 a.m., but just remember the more consistent you are, the faster your baby will learn to go to sleep.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine throughout the Entire Day
No parent wants a crying baby at bedtime. So if you are dealing with a fussy baby at night, consider practicing some daily routines so you and your baby can go to bed happy.
- The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to stay on schedule. Although this will not happen every day, do your best to stick to specific nap times. Put your baby down for naps at the same time every day. In addition, if he or she is giving you a hard time about going to sleep at night, consider limiting the amount of daily naps or the amount of time for each one. This will not be possible with a newborn, but within a few weeks, it should be pretty easy to get into a routine. If your baby is with someone else during the day, make sure the other person is aware of your set nap schedule – and also make sure they stick to it they best they can.
- Feed your baby around the same time every night. As you know, a full baby is happy baby. Too much time between the last feeding and bedtime can result in a hungry baby at midnight. Again, newborns will not be able to abide by this routine until they are about six weeks old. Your pediatrician will probably advise you to feed your newborn around the clock for the first few weeks.
- Make sure your baby’s bedroom is comfortable and inviting. Look around to see if there should be any changes or additions. For example, ensure there are no cold drafts that could bother the baby at night, consider a mobile or something that plays soft soothing music, and be sure the room is dimly lit, or dark, at bedtime.
- Lastly, put your baby down for bed at the same every night. This helps to establish a routine and the baby will begin to understand that it’s time for bed. Use soft, kind words to let him or her know that it is time to settle down. You will find that all parents have their own cutesy phrases, so don’t be ashamed to sound silly. Use a phrase like “beddy-bye time,” “sleepy time,” – even a soft “hussshhhh” or “ssshhhh” will do.
What you need to understand is that all babies respond differently to sleep training. Most likely, you will not be on an instant routine and you may need to try several things before finding what works. The only people that truly know what is best for a baby’s sleep habits are his or her own parents. Keep in mind that just because someone tells you that their baby always went right to sleep and slept all night long doesn’t mean that your baby will. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get to that point. Be patient and begin with a routine and method that you believe will work best for you and your family.
What Worked for Me
I remember all too well how difficult it was as a new mom to hear my baby cry. I was terrified that when it came time to sleep train him that I would be forced to endure hours of blood-curtling wails from my otherwise content, smiley baby. I read every piece of literature, blog post and website I could find, asked every parent I knew young and old, and even did some library research on the topic. The general consensus was that getting a baby to seep through the night as soon as possible was best. So, as a result of pure fear, I began sleep training almost immediately. After being home from the hospital for a few days I realized that JJ was on a completely reverse schedule than he should be, slept hour and hour during the day and in 15 minute increments at night. Oh No! Didn’t read anything about that!! So I came up with my own approach, Here it is:
1. Whenever JJ fell asleep during the day I made the room as dark as possible.
2. I would always have a TV on in the room with the volume down low.
3. I never woke him up! This part was highly debated by even my doctor who told me to wake him up every two hours to eat. For me, no way!
4. When he woke up, even in the middle of the night, I turned the TV up, turned on all the lights, and got him up to play.
5. After about a week of this routine at all hours of the day and night I began the next phase. At the same time every night I turned the lights off and the TV down and put him in his co-sleeper. If he fell asleep great, if not he laid there until he started to fuss, not cry. Once this happened I would take him out of the co-sleeper very quietly, feed him a couple ounces and put him back to bed. He would almost always fall asleep at this point.
6. If he woke up in the middle of the night, again I never woke him up, I quietly brought him out of his co-sleeper, nursed him until he was almost asleep, and put him back.
7. Sleep peacefully! After less than a week JJ was sleeping 7-8 hours every night without waking up at all. He was getting plenty of milk during the day to meet his dietary needs and personally I always felt that waking a sleeping baby was silly.
I proceeded to take the same approach with my next two children and it worked wonderfully with them as well. I have been blessed to have three boys that to this day sleep in their own beds all night. We have worked hard to keep the same schedule since JJ was born and it definitely has worked for us!
Good luck to you however you choose to tackle bedtime with your little one and as always, I’d love to hear what worked for you!