Friday, October 12, 2012

Creating a Sleep Schedule for Baby

My 6-week old is sleeping 8 hours straight at night! That's right! You heard it!
I am no "Baby Whisperer," nor am I a "Baby Coach." While I feel like I've achieved some victory over nighttime sleep, my son's daytime schedule is almost non-existent. I have, however, spent weeks researching the people who call themselves so, and I've compiled some helpful resources for you!

(Note: If you're going to start researching sleep training or schedule-making methods, keep in mind that even if you don't follow them to a T or if you find yourself "giving in" to what they advise against, sometimes just being aware of what they suggest will greatly help you and your baby's journey toward developing a schedule. You'll eventually find yourself implementing helpful strategies without realizing it! Knowledge is power!)

The first thing to know is that there are no right answers. Whatever strategies you choose will be right for you, your baby and your lifestyle.

There are (basically) three schools of thought about developing baby schedules. I found this information from Baby Center:
  1. There are "parent-led" schedules, in which baby eats, sleeps and plays according to the parents' schedule. "You'll sleep when I say you'll sleep."
  2. There are "baby-led" schedules, in which baby eats, sleeps and plays when the desire arises and baby will naturally develop a consistent schedule. "You'll sleep when you're tired."
  3. There are "combination" schedules which combine the "baby-led" and "parent-led" principles. "You'll generally sleep when I say so, but it's not written in stone."
Then you have different sleep training methods. The term "sleep training" is often helpful, as it reminds you that your baby needs to be taught bedtime routines and habits, that knowledge on how to "go to bed" is not innate.
  1. The "cry it out" method recommends that you lay baby down while he is still awake. Then, if he cries, you do not rush to him and sweep him up into your arms. Rather, you allow baby to cry for a short period of time, go in to reassure him with calming words and maybe some gentle patting or rubbing on the chest, and depart again, returning a short time later if baby is still crying. 
    1. This method, often associated with pediatrician Richard Ferber, is suggested to begin when baby is 4 to 6 months. (The above link for the cry it out method has step-by-step instructions on page 2 of the article.)
  2. The "no tears" method generally believes that allowing baby to cry is a betrayal of trust for your young one. Advocates suggest that you lay baby down early when he's showing signs of sleepiness. Then, if baby cries, comfort immediately by picking baby up and laying him back down when more calm. Some advocates recommend lulling baby to sleep by rocking him or use of co-sleeping.
    1. This method is often associated with Tracy Hogg (the "baby whisperer").
  3. There is a method that combines aspects of the methods above. The primary pediatrician associated with this method is Harvey Karp, creator of the "five S's," or, "the happiest baby" method. He recommends rocking baby to sleep or letting him fall asleep on your chest. Then, to prepare baby for falling asleep independently, you gently rouse baby before laying him in his crib. If baby cries, you apply Karp's "five S's" technique, which involves the following steps to recreate the experience in the womb (in this order):
    1. Swaddle baby. If that alone does not work,
    2. Side or Stomach - Place swaddled baby on his side or stomach (while still in your arms). If that doesn't work,
    3. Shhh - Make the shushing sound in baby's ear while still following the first two steps. If that doesn't work,
    4. Swing - Gently rock or make short swinging movements while still following the first three steps. If that doesn't work,
    5. Suck - Give baby a pacifier or your finger to suck on (sucking on a pacifier at night reduces the chances of SIDS)
All methods of sleep training recommend setting consistent baby schedules. To help me, I documented every nap and meal my son had from Week 2 on. (I'm still tracking every meal and nap. It's been really helpful in identifying sleep and eating patterns that my son was naturally developing on his own so I knew what consistent schedule to enforce.)

Before writing this post, I didn't think I subscribed the any method or school of thought. After this, however, I can say that I've subscribed to more of a "baby-led"schedule (I never would've guessed that's what I was doing!) and the "no tears" method. My husband finds a lot of success in the five S's method, which goes to show several methods can be used in one household.

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