Baby’s bedtime can be one of the most frustrating times of parenting. Hundreds of articles and book have been written about getting a baby to sleep, each giving different advice. Most advocate various methods of the cry-it-out technique and many give conflicting information about how baby should be put down. Mothers may be left wondering where they should turn. The answer? Their instinct.
A Mother’s Instinct
Linda Folden Palmer, an expert for Mothering magazine, says to mothers, “Please follow your instincts and your heart. They’re there for a reason.” You know your baby better than anyone else. While it is good to seek advice on caring for your baby, if the advice that you find goes against your instincts, don’t be afraid to disregard that advice or seek more advice.
Remember that each baby is unique. What works to get one baby to sleep may not work for another baby. Just as some adults fall asleep in five minutes while other adults count a thousand sheep before drifting into dreamland, so babies also have their own sleep habits. Instead of trying to make your baby fit the pattern described in a book or magazine, find what works for your baby.
Dr. Sears (The Baby Book, Little, Brown and Company, 2003) also advises mothers to “be the judge. Run these schemes [for getting baby to sleep] through your inner sensitivity scale. Weigh the pros and cons. Select what best fits your own family situation and seems right to you, eventually arriving at your own method.” Don’t feel that because a “sleep method” works for your best friend’s baby, it must also work for your baby.
Cry-it-out and Self-Soothe Sleep Methods
These methods work on the premise that babies need to learn to fall asleep by themselves, so mothers should put baby in the crib and let him fall asleep on his own. But as Palmer says, “Self-soothe sounds so peaceful. Or is it falling asleep from sheer exhaustion and eventually learning that your parents are not always there for you?”
Dr. Sears decries “cry-it-out methods,” saying that “it’s time for a more humane approach.” He points out that sleep problems are becoming more and more common, in both babies and adults, and suggests “helping your baby develop a healthy sleep attitude—one that will carry over into healthy adult sleep habits.” This includes getting babies to enjoy bedtime, rather than being afraid of it because they are left alone, crying in their cribs.
Parenting Your Baby To Sleep
One of the arguments of the cry-it-out method is that mothers don’t want to be rocking their babies to sleep for the rest of their lives. If we want our six-year-olds to fall asleep on their own, we should train them to do so when they are six-months old. However, that argument is flawed. We don’t expect six-months old to feed themselves, so why do we expect them to get themselves to sleep? Babies simply need more support from their parents, even in something that seems as simple as getting to sleep.
Dr. Sears explains, “Babies need to be parented to sleep, not just put to sleep.” Help your baby through this stage; don’t leave them to figure it out on their own. Try to understand baby’s sleep pattern and “do what you can to find the time and energy to help him sleep” (Palmer). Read books and articles with sleep advice, but test each against your own instinct, your baby’s temperament, and your parenting styles.
And remember, as Palmer says, “this fussy waking is common and it will pass.”