Ode to Luke, our youngest, as he turns 18!

Dale & Caroline: On baby sleep 

We had already learned from many mistakes with the first two children an important lesson about sleep. Namely, little ones sleep better when you don’t get them out of bed at night when they cry, as long as there is nothing dangerously wrong.

Instead, it’s better to just go into the room they're sleeping in, reassure them of your presence and your love by gently talking and patting them, and then leave. This teaches the child they’re not going to get picked up every time they cry.

If you do pick them up every time they cry, you communicate to them this message: "Whenever you cry, Mommy (or Daddy) responds and you get what you want."

Now don't get me wrong.  This is not something you want to try during the first 12 weeks of life. But after that point, if your child doesn't have any major issues, this method really does work!

But how do you really get your little ones to sleep?

You can teach your child to sleep, even from three or four months old. You really can. And it will improve your life as a parent dramatically.

How do you do this? Here's a simple step-by-step process:

    1. You lovingly put baby down for the night.
    2. Baby cries.
    3. You wait for at least three minutes (can seem like a lifetime, we know!) before going in.
    4. You calmly, gently, lovingly reassure him/her you're there, you love him/her, and that everything will be all right. You do not take him/her out of the crib unless there's clearly something wrong (i.e., baby is having breathing problems, is sick or badly teething, needs to go to the ER, etc.).
    5. You leave the room.
    6. (In most cases) Baby cries.
    7. You wait for a minute longer before going in.
    8. You repeat the same process. Again, don't take him/her out of the crib!
    9. (In many cases) Baby cries.
    10. You wait for another minute longer before going in.
    11. You repeat the same process. Again, don't take him/her out of the crib!

We think you're seeing the pattern here. Continue to stretch out the time until baby finally gives up and falls asleep!

But what if your baby is super stubborn and does this again and again? And what if there are neighbors on the other side of the wall (if you're living in an apartment, for example)? How do you do this?

Well, if you live in close quarters with another, simply talk with your neighbors in advance and let them know what you're trying to do. For example, from a certain date (i.e., about 12 weeks post-partum), you're going to be trying to teach baby to sleep.

This process may take up to a month with a really stubborn child. But rest assured, after that things will get much, much better.

(And, if your neighbors put up with a lot, don't forget to write them a thank you card and get them a little gift thanking them for their patience!)

Something else here.....

Of course, if you're in a small apartment and baby is sleeping with you, you'll need to modify this arrangement. Maybe you can start with nap times, getting him/her to learn to sleep well during the day in the bedroom you all share. You stay out of there once you've put baby down, following the pattern we've outlined above.

No question, this takes effort and intention. But it really is not much different from the process of potty training. You need to assert your role as parent – firm, but loving. Firm does not mean Most children, even as early as three months old, will catch on.

Luke wasn’t much of a cryer anyway, but, since we used this method from the start with him, I don’t think it ever occurred to him that crying was a good way to call mom and dad. 

Image credit: Dale & Caroline DePalatis

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