How can I get my baby to sleep without being held?
Today I am going to give you a put-your-baby-to-sleep-without-nursing-and-not-attached-to-you idea. I didn’t figure this one out until my third, and I’ve only tried it on one child, so you can take it with however many grains of salt that’s worth. While I actually love lying down with my babies and nursing them to sleep, there are times when this is not convenient and I need a solution that doesn’t involve a thirty minute process ending with me delicately easing myself up from the bed like a ninja, hoping that they don’t wake up and foil all my plans!
I can’t handle “sleep training” of the variety where you put them in the crib, leave, and just let them cry till they conk out. Some people can. Not me. I like a gentle and quiet approach. I came up with this strategy when my youngest was newly home from the hospital and it worked pretty well for us throughout his infancy.
After being sure baby was fed, changed, comfy, etc, I gave him his ten thousand kisses and put him down in his crib. Then I quietly slipped out and ran over to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. By the time I rinsed and spit he was starting to cry, so I went back in, picked him up, and soothed him till he was quiet. Then I put him gently down again, ran out, and brushed my hair. More crying. Ran back in, soothed, put him down, washed my face. Repeated soothing. Applied some makeup. Soothed. More makeup. Etc…
The Trick to Soothing
The key is, I did something quick, easy, and productive for myself in between soothing sessions. The first time I did this, I went in six times to soothe, and then he was solidly asleep. But I was dressed and had makeup on and was doing a victory dance! I didn’t let him cry and fuss without me but was always ready to pick him up and soothe him, so he didn’t escalate into baby hysterics at any point. Also, counting the number of times I went in to calm him was helpful for the future. Having the expectation that it was going to take, on average, six to ten times of going in to soothe helped me think about little things I could do during that time.
Using this technique, things eventually evolved into me being able to just put my baby down and leave without a lot of fuss (there were plenty of exceptions- no method works 100% of the time!). But it worked well enough that I wished I had thought of it with my first two babies.
1. Put baby down in her crib or bassinet. Leave.
2. Do something quick and easy.
3. Return as soon as you hear crying begin. Soothe however necessary.
4. When she is quiet, put her down and leave to do your next mini-task.
Things you can do in the 30-60 seconds before you have to go back in: Clip your nails, wash your face, put on eyeliner, get dressed in stages, put the kettle on for the cuppa you’ll have when this is done, do stretches, crunches, planks or whatever exercises are doctor-approved for you (um, I don’t suggest jumping jacks if you just had that baby- you’ll see why). Another excellent strategy is to put on your headphones and listen to a gripping audiobook, and then you really might not care how long this whole process takes because you are so absorbed!
Finally: parenting is not a formula, and this is just an idea for your potential inspiration. As I said, I only tried it on one child. And lots of times it didn’t work at all and I gave up and put him in the sling to sleep on me or I curled up with him on the futon in his room. Sometimes I think he just needed me close, whether it was convenient to my plans or not. But it worked well enough that I thought it worth sharing. Good luck, parents!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (5/24/2017) Caitlin Regan (Flickr)