Babies love cuddles, especially when trying to settle to sleep. If you gave an infant the choice between settling in your arms or settling in a cot, the majority of babies are going to go with the former.
The problem is, we parents need a break from being non-stop settling machines. We need to sleep. And eat. Shower, even. And thus, we are given the seemingly impossible task of teaching our little ones to self-settle.
There is no secret settling formula that will work for all babies. But there are some techniques that experts swear by and have been kind enough to pass on to us sleep-deprived parents.
Settle with the 5 S’s (The Karp Method)
Dr Harvey Karp developed a five-pronged approach to getting babies to settle. This is especially handy for extra fussy babies who simply won’t sleep without a sleep aid. This is the gentlest approach to helping baby settle.
1. Swaddle – Wrap baby to prevent the startle reflux and promote security.
2. Side – Start baby off on his side to ease fussiness before transitioning your infant to the back position for sleep.
3. Shush – The ‘shush’ sound of white noise can lull baby into sleep.
4. Swing – Babies love that back and forth movement, another soothing way to settle.
5. Suck – Allow baby to suck, either on the breast or a dummy. Yes, this can lead to a dummy
(or booby) dependency, but, at least it gives your arms a break!
Letting Baby Cry (The Ferber Method)
Developed by Dr Richard Ferber, the Cry-It-Out method is the most drastic approach to helping baby settle and is not recommended for babies under four months of age. It is also quite effective, if you can handle the temporary tears.
1. Put baby in the cot, awake but sleepy.
2. Say goodnight and leave the room.
3. If baby cries, wait a short period of time and re-enter the room. Do not pick baby up. Just offer comforting pats and noises.
4. Leave again, even if baby is still awake and upset.
5. Continue to return to the crying baby, but leave it a little longer before re-entering the room. Repeat the process until baby falls asleep.
No-Cry Sleep Solution (The Pantley Method)
Sleep expert Elizabeth Pantley designed another option – a middle ground. This approach is also effective for older babies and toddlers, especially those with a dummy/booby dependency.
1. Allow baby to settle in your arms, on the breast or with a dummy.
2. Before baby falls completely asleep, remove the sleep aid and place the sleepy infant in the cot.
3. If baby wakes up, repeat the process until baby is almost asleep again and place baby back in cot.
4. Repeat until baby stays asleep in the cot.
Which method is right for you? We can’t answer that. But hopefully one of these settling tricks will work for you and your baby.