Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A good night’s sleep is a mom’s luxury

Aliah at 3 months old. She looked like a boy!

I read a quote somewhere which says “Where there’s a newborn baby, there’s a sleepy mom out there.” Indeed, sleep is no longer a necessity; it’s a luxury, like that special bottle of perfume you buy when you get your annual bonus. Something like that. My daughter did not start sleeping through the night until recently. I was surprised when I woke up in the morning on my own accord and not in the middle of the night because of her cries. Even so, after a week of two of blissful sleep, she starts changing her sleep pattern again, waking up but not wanting milk (when I already prepared a bottle and gave it to her) but she’s just thirsty and wants water. Then she starts babbling and drifts back to sleep on her own.

Oh but that was an easy night. Months before that, there were many nights of torture for both me and my husband. My daughter’s sleep patterns had been a volatile graph right from the start. She has difficulties falling asleep and wakes up too easily. We’ve tried a LOT of ways to get her to sleep e.g. on our bed, in her crib, swaddled in the baby rocker, swaddled in the traditional spring buai, on our laps, on our shoulders, on a full stomach, in a quiet and dark room, in the hall with the tv booming, nurse her to sleep and some others that I can’t remember. She had been sleeping in the spring buai until a few months back recently until I decided to make her fall asleep on her own in her cot (because I was too tired to sit up and swing the buai up and down every time she cries. My arms hurt.)

You know the cry-it-out method to get your baby to sleep? I decided to try it out. After her diaper and night clothing change, her bottle of milk and her reading session, I’ll put her in her cot wide awake with her water bottle. (Sometimes she drinks water from her bottle until she falls asleep.) Then I’ll turn off the lights, give her one last kiss and hug and lie down in my bed beside her cot. Most of the time, she’d still want to continue playing in the dark, throwing her pillows at me, sometimes poking me in the face. I would just ignore her and pretend to sleep (most of the time, I really slept instead of just pretending). I’d hear her babble, walk around her cot, gulping down water and rolling around trying to sleep. It’d take around 30 to 45 minutes, but she did sleep on her own in the end. Voila!

So in case you want to try it out with your baby, here’s the tried and tested way of doing it, from But remember, you know your baby best and the steps are for a guideline only. (I didn't follow every single step either. I just did the best I could.) In the end, you just got to whing it and deal with it.

The Key Steps to Settling Your Baby

  • Newborn - 6 months
  • 6 to 12 months
  • Tips on settling the older toddler

The decision to change your baby’s sleeping habits is not one you will make lightly. Generally parents have reached their threshold of exhaustion when they decide to take on the commitment of change.These techniques are not for everyone, there is some crying involved. Some babies will respond immediately to the techniques while others can take up to 3 weeks. Persistence is the key to success as babies learn from repetition.Try to hold this thought – these settling techniques will be no harder than what you are already going through.

The following things should be considered before starting a settling program.

  1. Ensure your baby is well.
  2. Any concerns you might have should be cleared with your doctor before starting.
  3. If your baby becomes unwell during the weeks that you are attempting to get the program to work, stop and start again when they are well.
  4. Make sure you yourself are well. It won’t do either of you any good to be starting a new routine under stress.
  5. Try to keep a fairly free week so you can devote as much time and effort as possible into making the program work. A busy schedule will make it harder to do the techniques with each sleep and take longer to work.
  6. If you have other caregivers, make sure they follow the new routine. This is to ensure that there are no mixed messages being given.
  7. Make sure the cot is well ventilated with no bumpers or pillows.
  8. Remove all toys from the cot. The cot should be designated for sleeping rather than playing.
  9. Have a dim night light so as baby can see their surroundings when they wake.
  10. Make sure your partner is agreeable about the new routine. Even if they don’t wish to be overly involved in the settling, explain to them what it is that you are attempting to do so they can appreciate the added pressure you are under. They too will be great beneficiaries of a child that sleeps well.
  11. If not your partner, try and have a support person to take over for you if need be.

Newborn - 6 months

SIDS and Kids Australia recommend wrapping a baby and sleeping them on their back. We always recommend that all parents follow SIDS guidelines when your baby is asleep. During the program we use a technique of settling a baby on their side, however you should never leave your baby to sleep in this position. Follow these steps to settle your baby:

Courtesy of

  1. Wrap your baby firmly but not tightly in a lightweight material, cotton or muslin is ideal. This will help him feel secure and take control of his hands, stopping him from catching himself on the face if he flails around. Once baby is sleeping we will then loosen the wrap and roll baby onto their back. Always ensure wrapping is well secured and unable to cover your babies breathing passages. Wrapping is not required after the age of 3 months.
  2. Place him in his cot on his side, facing away from you, and with his feet close to the end of the cot. This is to avoid any eye contact.
  3. Make a note of the time: you’re going to give him 15 minutes to settle. Place one hand on his shoulder and with the other hand pat his bottom. He will probably be crying at this stage but keep patting. When the crying stops then stop the patting. The aim is to get him to fall asleep by himself not pat him off to sleep. If the crying starts again, start patting.
  4. If after 15 minutes he has not settled, pick him up give him a cuddle to settle him down (be careful not to rock him off to sleep) then turning him onto his other side (you will need to go around to the other side of the cot) begin the settling again for a further 15 minutes. You can settle for up to one hour, but after that you should offer a drink.
  5. Once he is sleeping you can then roll him onto his back and loosen and secure the wrap.
  6. Anything under one hour is considered a catnap and you should use the settling techniques to resettle without picking them up first.

6 to 12 months

  1. Lie your baby in his cot on his back with his feet to the end of the cot, cover him and say “it’s time to sleep” and leave the room.
  2. Wait outside for 2 minutes, he will probably be protesting. After 2, minutes go back into the room and lay him on his side facing away from you to avoid eye contact. Place one hand on his shoulder and with the other hand pat his bottom – repeating “it’s time to sleep". When the crying stops then stop the patting. Be careful not to pat baby off to sleep, the aim is to get him to sleep independently. If after 2 minutes he is still crying, leave the room and wait outside for 4 minutes this time.
  3. If baby is still protesting after 4 minutes outside the room, go back in and settle the same way, this time for 4 minutes.
  4. Keep increasing the time outside the room and inside the room by 2 minutes each time (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) until you have reached 10 minutes. It is recommended not to leave a baby longer than ten minutes at any time. If after 1 hour of trying your baby has not settled, pick him up, offer a drink and a reassuring cuddle. During the day if baby has not responded get him up and try again next sleep. During the night you will need to persist with the techniques until he is asleep.

Tips on settling the older toddler

  1. After the bath have some quiet time. Never over stimulate them at bedtime with rough or loud play. Allow them to have a drink, go to the toilet or put on a clean nappy and then choose a story or two.
  2. Set the number of stories to be read before you begin and stick to it, remember you must be in control not your little one.
  3. When trying a new routine, perhaps get them a nice new bedtime friend, if they stay in their bed they can have it, but if they get out of bed then let them know that you will take it away.
  4. Say good night and leave the room. If they get up just keep putting them back and leaving. If it goes on for too long, let them know that next time they get up you will have to shut the door. Keep in mind that what ever you say you are going to do you need to follow through.


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