A friend of mine, who is a relatively new mom, was telling me about her 5-month old baby the other day. Naturally, she had all those delightful tales about how adorable her baby is, but she also had the not-so-pleasant stories. One of those was the fact that her baby does not really sleep well at night, especially if she does not sleep beside him. As many more seasoned moms would know, babies generally are ready to sleep for about 4 or 5 hours straight at night when they reach 4 months or so. The trick is in helping or teaching the baby to do it on his/her own. This is what I shared with my friend.
Establish a routine and make sure you follow it. Man is a creature of habit, and babies are no different! At this point, you have to help your baby get used to certain “rituals” at night that will make it easier for him to fall asleep. The tried and tested trick for me is to get the atmosphere right about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Give baby a soothing bath. Turn the lights down (or off, if that works for the baby). Play soft music. Tell a story. Make soothing sounds. These things combined send a signal that it is time for beddybye land. The story telling and soothing sounds really help – your baby relishes the sound of your voice more than you would know. Of course, in the beginning, your baby will still make a fuss and not fall asleep easily. After a week or so of constant practice, though, things should settle down.
Avoid coddling the baby. This is something that is quite hard for some parents to do, especially those who are first-timers. The moment the baby makes a sound, you might be tempted to pick him up immediately. I have learned to do otherwise. Instead of immediately reassuring the baby, wait and see first. For some infants, this kind of response will actually make them stop crying on their own. If this is the case for your baby, then it is a good sign that you can actually “ignore” his cries every now and then, especially if it is time for bed. He may only be seeking for attention and some coddling, which can be ignored when trying to teach him to fall asleep on his own. Of course, you have to observe how this kind of reaction affects your baby.
Expert moms, how did you teach your baby to fall asleep alone?