By Olivia K Pitkethly, MA, LMHC
New parents receive so much unsolicited advice regarding sleep and their newborns. From “never wake a sleeping baby” to “wake the baby every two hours to eat” it can get pretty confusing. Add to that your exhaustion, and who has time to research the best way to get your baby to sleep? We’ve broken down the three most common methods to sleep train your baby.
The Ferber Method
Named after Dr. Richard Ferber, a pediatrician and author of “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” this method teaches your baby to soothe himself to sleep. Starting between the ages of 3 and 5 months, begin a loving bedtime routine, such as rocking and singing a lullaby, and then place your baby in the crib while he is still awake. If your baby cries, determine how long you will wait before you check on him. For example, allow your baby to cry for a minute or two, and then soothe him gently without picking him up. Leave the room, and do the same thing again. Over time, gradually increase your wait time before going in to soothe. This will allow your baby to adjust and eventually soothe himself to sleep.
The Five S’s
Dr. Harvey Karp author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” suggests recreating the womb experience to help your baby sleep. He describes the first few months after a baby’s birth as the “fourth trimester” and says that babies need help adjusting to their new stimulating and active world. The Five S’s can help your fussy baby by turning on the calming reflex in his brain. The Five S’s to implement while your baby is still awake are swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing and suck. Swaddling means to wrap your baby snugly in a thin blanket. Side or stomach position is the best way to soothe your crying baby. Once your baby is asleep, ALWAYS place him down on his back to reduce the risk of SIDS. Shush is the sound you will make in your baby’s ear (think of a constant “shhh” similar to white noise). Swing is the movement you will use, typically a gentle jiggly walk, since this is what the baby will remember from the womb. Suck refers to the baby using a pacifier or his fingers. Karp suggests using the Five S’s in that order, then repeating if needed.
Pick Up Put Down Technique
Nurse, teacher and mom Tracy Hogg, also known as “The Baby Whisperer” popularized the Pick Up Put Down (PUPD) technique. PUPD is recommended for babies between 4 and 8 months of age. Start with asoothing, relaxing bedtime routine, such asa warm bath, snuggly pajamas and a lullaby. Once your baby is drowsy, place her in her crib. If she doesn’t immediately cry, leave the room. Stop, wait and listen. If your baby cries (more than a little fussing), go into her room, pick her up and soothe her until she stops. Then put her back down in her crib. Hogg warns that it is time consuming for parents and may not work with some babies who could find the process over-stimulating.
What works for you?
The most important part of sleep training is finding what works for you and your family. Author and pediatrician William Sears tells parents to ask themselves these questions, whether related to sleep training, food choices or any other baby issues: Does this advice sound sensible? Does it fit your baby’s temperament? Listen to your intuition (and your baby) to find the right fit.
Real Advice from Real Moms
“One of my mommy friends taught me the ‘eyebrow rub.’ Cradling your baby, use one hand, forefinger and pinky, to rub both eyebrows at the same time from middle to outside (sliding fingers away from each other). They close their eyes because your hand is in front of them and it’s very soothing. My son was a calm and good sleeper and I credit it all to this.”
– Laurie Wohl, mom of one
“Foot rubs. To this day, all of the kids still ask me to ‘rub my feet’ when it’s time for bed. The tough part is figuring out who goes first. It’s become something special for them and they only ask me to do it.”
– Corinne Wittlin, mom of three