Rebecca Judd’s midwife weighs in on the baby sleep debate.
Yes. There’s only one way to successfully get your baby to sleep. It’s called controlled crying.
And everyone has a breakdown over it, thinking they are going to cause their child long term harm but believe me, a child waking up 3-7 times a night will do more harm to your parenting and the child than controlled crying.
There have been no published studies to show any evidence that there is any physical or psychological harm to the child if controlled crying is practiced. More to the point, what is the effect on long-term sleep deprivation to the baby and parents?
So for a start, let’s call it something else, passive settling. There that sounds better and we don’t feel like we are standing over our child “controlling him” while he is “crying his eyes out”. Babies need to learn a skill before they can accomplish it. So they need to learn to go back to sleep if they are waking constantly over night.
I have successfully taught ‘passive settling’ for over 33-years and in fact did it with my own son when he was 8-months-old, he was waking every few hours after a bout of gastro.
The aim of passive settling is that the baby goes back to sleep by himself but for that to happen you must follow a strict process. Over the years many people have told me they have tried ‘controlled crying’ many times and it never works, I say if it hasn’t worked, this is because it wasn’t done properly.
Babies change their sleep patterns for a few reasons. It may be following illness, after a holiday, teething or the use of a dummy to settle the baby. A baby that once slept well, begins waking like a newborn.
So what is passive settling? It is a way of allowing the baby to go to sleep, having the parent check and reassure the baby at intervals that increase in time until the baby goes to sleep himself.
Cath's rules for passive settling:
The baby MUST be;
- Over six months of age AND/OR over 8 kilograms in weight.
- Show NO signs of illness.
- In his own home and cot.
- Not about to travel on holidays the next few weeks.
- Ensure the baby has had dinner and bath by 6pm. I try not to give babies too much milk before bed the first time prior to doing passive settling as some babies may vomit and that will cause distress for the baby and more work for you. Offer lots of fluids during the day and a small drink prior to bed. If the baby is teething I give the baby the recommended dose of Panadol per weight and age. This ensures the baby is pain free and also helps you as parents not to stress out the baby may be in pain.
- Once the baby is ready for bed, dress appropriately in sleeping bag. No sheets, pillows or blankets in the cot. Kiss the baby goodnight, tell him how much you love him and put him into bed and walk out the door.
- That is probably the hardest thing, once you’ve left the baby in the cot and you’ve walked out the door. Remember he is safe.
- Then I suggest you get your phone and you turn the timer on and let it tick over for two minutes. They do seem like two very very long minutes when you have a baby crying. It’s best not to stand outside the door listening to the baby crying have a walk around the house, make a cup of tea do something to distract yourself.
- After the two minutes is up, go to the baby and reassure him saying the same mantra “good night darling time to bed, good boy mummy is here and I will be coming back. It’s time to go to sleep that’s a good boy”.
- I suggest you don’t stay in the baby’s room for a long time because that will stress the baby and yourself. Stay in for about 15-30 seconds reassuring the baby and then leave the room.
- Many years ago we used to pick the baby up hold the baby to settle and then put the baby back down to bed. The process certainly took longer that way and seemed to increase the crying process.
- Reassuring the baby in his cot is a lot quicker and more efficient. Once you have left the room, set the timer for four minutes and go through the same process.
- The sequence you need to go through is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15 minute intervals. If the baby is still crying after 15 minutes go in and reassure every 15 minutes.
- I must say it’s pretty rare if a baby is crying every 15 minutes in my experience. I find that between the four minute and six minute mark the baby tends to have a lull in his crying, just for a few seconds. This is when you start to feel you’ve nearly achieved your goal.
- All babies do this process differently. Some take only half an hour and others it seems to take hours.
- When the baby stops crying and goes to sleep you really won’t believe the silence! High fives all around! When the baby is finally asleep, leave him. If you have a monitor and look at him, don’t worry if he is up one end of the cot, just leave him. Remember to ensure there are no toys, sheets, pillows or blankets in the cot prior to commencing this process.
- The next time in the evening the baby wakes up, you need to wait for two minutes before going into the baby. There is a slight chance that the baby may go back to sleep so if after two minutes the baby hasn’t gone back to sleep go in and start the process again. You do not need to give the baby Panadol. I find during this part of the process the baby may settle quicker. High fives again!
Depending on the baby’s age if the baby goes to bed at 6pm and has slept through I would definitely feed the baby if he wakes at 4 or 5 o’clock. Then he will go back to sleep for another few hours.