The early weeks with a newborn are all about survival.
You do whatever it takes to get them to sleep before they hit their limit.
When you miss the sacred “nap window” you end up with a baby who will only feed to sleep or needs the car/buggy to drop off.
It is for the these reasons that I frequently ended up rocking my second baby to sleep. I walked around the nursery rocking her in different ways, desperate to find a rhythm that worked faster.
With my first the dummy did the trick. It put her out like a light every time.
My second just wanted to be attached to my nipple 24/7. Funnily enough, I wasn’t ok being a human pacifier so I needed a solution.
Rocking her to sleep was the answer.
Many parenting book authors would wag their fingers at me and tell me this was just me making a rod for my own back.
Well, when it’s 2am and you haven’t slept for more than 24 hours I would say a quick solution is absolutely what the doctor ordered.
So much changes about a baby in the first year. I just don’t believe what you do in the first three months really makes that much difference in the long run. Just get through it, however you can.
Once my baby was feeding less frequently and had a more obvious pattern for sleep, I set about trying to break the feed/rock to sleep habit.
I stress this is just what worked for me. It’s not for going to work for every baby, but I believe any baby can learn to fall asleep on their own once they’re ready.
There will of course be times when only sleeping on mummy or daddy will do. That’s fine in the early months, you’re not spoiling them! They’re babies.
When I was ready to stop rocking my second baby to sleep and regain a bit more “me time”, this is what I did.
A solid bedtime routine
When it comes to night and nap time, try to be consistent with how you do it. That might be as simple as a bath or wash, bottle or breastfeed, bedtime story or lullaby and then being placed in bed.
I’ve written about my bedtime routine for two kids in a previous post.
Try a dummy
Never worked with my second, but it’s worth a go as it did work with my first. Try different brands as babies can be fussy.
My first liked the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature ones. I simply popped it in at nap or bedtime and her eyes rolled straight to the back of her head.
Pick up/put down
Not for the weak of spirit. This one is about patience. I found with my second this did help, in combination with other things.
Basically every time baby cries you pick her up and comfort her, then pop her back down again when she’s stopped. And repeat. It can go on a long, long time.
I know they say it’s about consistency, but sometimes when my baby was just grizzly I found it better to just leave the room and let her whinge a bit. She would often just suddenly stop, more on that later.
I wanted to introduce a “sleep cue” so my baby recognised it was time for bed. This was part of my bedtime routine.
I use Ewan the Dream Sheep. He made no difference with my first baby but has been great with my second. I use the piano music (front right leg button on Ewan) for my little one.
It doesn’t send her off straight away but the consistency of using this as a cue has helped, I’m sure.
Leaving the room
I’m not a fan of cry it out. But sometimes you have to think about the greater good. I wouldn’t leave my baby to cry if she was full on, out of control wailing. But when she’s making those “I’m tired and a bit miffed” grunts and groans I would sometimes just leave her to it for 10 minutes.
Sometimes it escalated, sometimes it didn’t. Eventually it reduced and reduced until she stopped whinging at bedtime altogether.
Try to have a bit of consistency in your nap and bedtime. I know how tough this can be, I have two kids and am sometimes out nearly all day trying to entertain my toddler.
But it does help if you can spend a bit of time cracking the nap time routine. It won’t happen overnight.
A general rule is a baby of three months will be tired about two hours after waking, although sometimes it’s 90 minutes.
Try not to let them nap after 4pm, then you’re in danger nap territory.
When you’re trying to break the habit of rocking to sleep you need to give it more than a day, it can take a week or more to get there. Have patience and stick with it.
Try to stay calm
It’s frustrating when you have a tired baby who won’t go to sleep. It’s utterly illogical. But babies aren’t stupid and if you get stressed, they will get stressed too.
Take a deep breath and leave the room if you need to calm down a bit. Remember “this too shall pass”.
Stop listening to the doomsayers
The people who say rocking your baby to sleep means they will never self soothe are, frankly, wrong. I rocked my youngest to sleep for the first 15 weeks. I then started to try to break the habit.
It took about two weeks to see results and then another week for it to be consistent. She now nods off with no problems at all.
I would say my youngest was a lot harder to settle than my first and slept a lot lighter.
Every baby is different. The main thing is to for you to get as much rest as you can in the early weeks so you can be the best mum you can be.
Don’t stress about sleep training in the early weeks. Your baby didn’t read the manual that promises to provide all the answers.
Give it time and a bit of patience, it will get easier!