5 Secrets to Help Your Baby Sleep in His Own Bed

becca-garber-5-secrets-help-baby-sleep-bed Let me paint a picture of my life about a month ago.  Nine AM on a weekday.  Elliott would have left for work, I would be holding the fort down at home.  At about this time, Gil would already be fussing, refusing to be set down and unhappy in my arms.  Nap time.  After setting Lena up with something safe to do, I would turn to the task of putting Gil to sleep, an ordeal I well know could take 45 minutes.

I would take Gil into a dark room, swaddle him, nurse him, give him his pacifier, and then hold him to my chest as I started walking with a bouncing step, pacing the room over and over and over.  Gil would almost always spit out his pacifier, arch his back, cry, and scream.  I would keep working with him, shushing and rocking and pacing until finally — finally — he seemed to be asleep.

I would wait another 5 minutes, still bouncing and pacing, until I was sure he was really asleep.  Then, ever so gently, I would lay him down in his co-sleeper cotand creep away.

Outside his room, I would have just smiled down at Lena and said, “Yes, Mama can play with you now,” when I would hear a snuffling sound.

He had woken up.

Sighing but not surprised, I would go back into the room and start the process over again.  This time I would put him into the baby swing (conveniently located right next to his bed).

Another 30 seconds later I would hear the same impatient “eh-eh-eh” as Gil realized that he had been left once again.  I would start the process for the third time.  Finally maybe this time he would sleep.

I would leave his room, look at the time, and groan.  Just 9:45 AM.  How much of this day stretching ahead of me would be spent in this Groundhog Day drama?  I was so tired of this and Gil was just 2.5 months old.  When would he sleep in his bed?  What was I doing wrong?  Why wouldn’t he stay asleep?  How long would I be using this swing?

Can any of you relate?  Little did I know, hope was just around the corner…

fast forward to 3 weeks ago

“You’ve probably read enough about babies and sleep,” my friend Bethany joked, “but I wondered if you’ve ever read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer?  It was helpful for me with my boys.”

I shook my head.  “I haven’t read it, actually, and I’m desperate enough to try anything.  I’d love to borrow it.”

I’m so glad I did, too.  I’ve read a lot of books about babies, but this one was new to me.  I was immediately captivated by the author’s cheery, conversational writing style, which made the whole paperback seem more readable than many more academic — but wonderful! — tomes.  Also, almost immediately I found myself thinking, “Wow… maybe I’ve been doing this all wrong?  I need to try this with Gil!”

I decided to put the book into practice one Saturday when I had Elliott around to help with Lena (and offer moral support!).  Then I started doing 5 things:

1. I watched Gil for signs of sleepiness and then started the process of putting him down for a nap by his second yawn.

According to the book, there are three stages to falling asleep (yawning, a dazed stare, and then nodding off to sleep).  I started watching Gil closely for signs that he was getting tired in the first stage, which included yawning as well as rubbing his eyes, turning his head away from stimulation, and becoming increasingly discontent.  Then I counted the yawns and began the process of putting him to sleep by the second or third yawn.  This way I avoided overtired screaming and — to my astonishment — he would fall asleep within 1-5 minutes instead of with 10 minutes of screaming!

2.  I began to lay Gil down in his crib when he was drowsy, not fully asleep.

To do this, I would only hold Gil for a moment or two before laying him into his bed.  Then, while he was still awake in his bed, I would gently hold his pacifier in his mouth, pat his chest, and say “shhh” until he sunk into a deep sleep.  If he started crying, I would pick him up and soothe him again; as soon as he was calm again, I would lay him down.  Gil actually seemed to like this and it made me wonder if all the rocking and bouncing I used to get him to sleep before was frustrating to him and keeping him up longer!  Also, I think the transition of moving to his bed was more disruptive to him in a deep sleep than in a drowsy state when he could say, “ok, I’m falling asleep in my bed now” and then do just that.

 3. I began to put Gil to sleep for the night around 6:30 PM.

Before I made these changes, Gil had been up and down until 11 PM each night.  This is typical for a newborn that has no routine and no knowledge of the difference between night and day.  But Gil was already 2.5 months, and every book says a baby should be going to sleep between 6-7 PM at that age.  Gil still continues to wake up to nurse about every 2-3 hours, but he knows now (and learned quickly) that he must go right back to sleep after nursing at night.  What a relief!  Elliott and I have our evenings to ourselves again!

4.  With the earlier bedtime, I also introduced a bedtime routine to signal the end of the day and to help Gil relax before bed.

Following the suggestions in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, I began to give Gil a short bath and massage at 6 PM every evening. Gil LOOOOVES this time with me.  He smiles the entire time and coos and just gobbles up all the individual attention.  He loves the warm bath, he loves the massage, he loves the quiet room and me smiling down and singing to him.  This has become a time that I look forward to as well.  I watched this DVDto help me learn some infant massage techniques and I use this super-safe lotionon Gil’s baby skin.

Now I only wish someone could put me to bed with a bath and a massage every night.  And going to bed at 6:30 wouldn’t be so bad either!

5.  Finally, I stopped using the baby swing.

It was a bit of a relief, to be honest.  Although I miss the 3-hour naps Gil took in it at one point in his earlier babyhood, I had begun to notice after about 2 months that Gil didn’t seem fully rested, peaceful, or content when he woke up from a nap in the swing.  Also, the swing is an eyesore and has a large footprint in our home.  I’m so glad to be rid of it!

We interrupt this program to admire the cuteness beside me right now…


And so there you have it.  Big, wonderful changes around here!  I have a little guy who actually sleeps in his bed now, who requires very little soothing before he sleeps, and who goes to sleep for the night around 6:30 PM.  Such an improvement for this mama… and her baby!  I haven’t said this about a baby book before, but I will say it about this one: Secrets of the Baby Whispererchanged my life.

Now lest I give you the impression that life with Gil is just peachy, please know that isn’t entirely true yet.  He takes only short naps (30-45 minutes at a time) and that is so frustrating to me; I wish he’d sleep longer.  I go into his room and do all I can to coax him back to sleep, but I’m rarely successful. Another frustrating thing is that he wakes up 3-5 times a night to nurse.  I know this was a habit I established early by feeding him whenever he asked for it, but it didn’t bother me so much when he was sleeping next to me.  Now that he’s sleeping in another room, getting up every 2 hours in the night to feed him is exhausting.  I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet.  In fact, I have no idea what to do about it.  My books say I should soothe him instead of feeding him… but at 2 AM all I want to do is get back to my own warm bed as quickly as I can, not soothe a screaming baby for an hour!  Other books say I should let him cry it out.

Do you have any ideas??

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22 Responses to 5 Secrets to Help Your Baby Sleep in His Own Bed

  1. Jen May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    As I am sure you know, this is one if the most talked about, and debated aspects of new parenthood.

    We are not a CIO family. So, I would strongly disagree with any book that told you to do so, especially a baby of 2.5 mos :(

    I think what you are doing is perfect. You must feed on demand, IMO. I realllly hate the “baby wise”philosophy.

    That all being said, my son did all of this..until he was 14 mos old. He clearly was the exception to the rule, as my friends babies were STTN around 6-8 mos old.

    I say keep at it. Routine, routine, routine. He will get there. I know it’s so difficult, though!

    • Becca May 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Yes, I know it is… although I had to think about both of those abbreviations! I’m not as up on the debate as I could be… which is a good thing, maybe? And yes… totally agree with you that 2.5 months is waaaay to early to cry it out! Routine, soothing, and trying to figure out my baby is the name of my game these days. We’ll see how it goes!

  2. Emily May 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    That’s such a tough question! Our solution was to have Anthony go in and soothe her, the second I entered her room she just wanted to nurse. She knew her momma was close by and refused anything but the goods. Bless Anthony, but that’s the only way we could soothe not nurse. Of course when she is teething everything goes out the window and she just ends up back in our bed nursing all night. Once that tooth cuts through it’s back to the routine. Thanks for sharing your struggles and successes Becca, it’s helpful for me to hear how other mommas handle this stuff. xoxox

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

      I wish we could sit down with our babies and cups of coffee, Emily! Miss you!

  3. Sarah May 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I will definitely say that I owe my sanity to the Baby Whisperer. Definitely check out her longer, more in-depth “Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems”. Hard copy vs. electronic b/c it’s so thorough, you’ll want to read and re-read chapters. Case studies, FAQs. We followed her baby care methods to a “T”, and my children both slept through the night (within reason) from 4 months onward. I love her style – especially how she empowered me to tune into my children’s cues and understand how their innate personalities affect sleep, eating, etc.

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

      Will do, Sarah. Thank you!

  4. Alica May 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    This brings back some memories to me…our daughter would NOT settle down at night. She would be fed, dry, warm, but as soon as I would lay her down, she would wake up crying. I was so exhausted. We eventually did do the cry-it-out method at night, and it took doing it for only two days for her to learn to soothe herself back to sleep. She found her fingers, too, and that was a life saver…even though she had to “un learn” the habit eventually. That wasn’t so hard, considering the peace we all had in the meantime! I’m glad to hear nap time is going much better for you!!

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Yes, we did the cry-it-out method with Lena when she was about 5 months old (and we were moving her from our bed to her own bed) and it worked like a charm. After a couple of nights she was peaceful and happy in her own bed, and she still sleeps beautifully through the night 95% of the time. Every baby is different, though, and we’re just taking it slowly… and also trying new things this time since Gil is just too noisy to sleep in our room or in our bed. Not what I expected after co-sleeping and then CIO with Lena seemed so easy and so natural, but it is what it is!

  5. Carrie May 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Our little boys sounds so similar! Thank for posting this review. I had been considering reading that book, so I think I will now. I am so glad to hear it is working for your nap routine (but I am sorry to hear about the short naps – that is hard!)

    My little guy isn’t sleeping through the night yet either, and although I would love it, I am not onboard with him crying it out at 2 months, so my solution for now is to try and go to bed early when I put him down, so I don’t miss the first stretch of sleep. That is hard though because it means I don’t get as much done but sleep is worth it right now!

    Be sure to post if you find another solution – I would love to hear it! :)

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

      Yes, sounds like we’re going through pretty much exactly the same thing, Carrie! Thanks for your encouragement. I’ll let people know on the blog as things change and develop. I’ve learned with Lena that what is true one week may not be true next week. Sigh. But babies do change and develop, and I’m grateful that Gil’s changes are MOSTLY in the right direction these days after such a hard early stage.

  6. Rachel May 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    I’m so glad things are settling into a routine for you guys! And I wish I had more helpful advice toward the goal of STTN. None of our kids slept through the night with any amount of regularity until at least a year. And that’s with consistent regular naptimes and bedtimes and routines, etc., just like the Baby Whisperer (and Health Sleep Habits) suggest. With Marlee, Stephen would go in and shush and jiggle her until she went back to sleep. With Hazel we tried substituting a pacifier (and ended up going in at least once a night to put that horrid thing back in her mouth until she was 18 months). We tried a partial CIO with Lucy at 6 months to get her down from 3 feeds/night. It was successful to get her to one feed, but in recent attempts to cut out that last feed, it has only resulted in sadness and more tiredness. Every baby is different. But for me, the best idea is to go to bed early (which I don’t do well) and adjust my own expectations :-) Good luck!

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      “Every baby is different. But for me, the best idea is to go to bed early (which I don’t do well) and adjust my own expectations.” Yes, that has become true for me, too! 9pm bedtime, anyone?!

  7. Shelby May 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I also eventually asked my husband to go in and soothe kiddo to sleep at night, because she just assumed she would eat if I showed up, even though I *knew* she really didn’t need it. Why is getting babies to sleep such a process?

    My husband saw the pictures of Gil and immediately said, “that kid has some hair.” He’s so adorable. You guys make cute babies :)

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      Thank you, Shelby! And yes, Elliott’s been going in to soothe/give Gil his pacifier more lately because of this same reason.

  8. Tiffany May 2, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    You’re doing great! My little one slept all night from 2-6 months old, so I got spoiled. But it has been a challenge since then.
    She generally sleeps through the night now, but it takes 30 minutes to an hour to get her to go to sleep at night, which is frustrating.
    I read The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems and liked it but wouldn’t swear by it. I’ll have to check out this one with #2.
    And I can’t do crying it out–just can’t do it.

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      I really need to check out that book; you’re the second person who’s recommended it to me!

  9. Sarah May 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Becca, after putting Gil in bed around 6:30-7:00…do you do a “dream-feed” (go into his room, no lights, quiet nursing, no diaper change, back to sleep) between 10-11pm? The goal with this being to pre-emptively nurse him before he wakes on his own to help him over that initial middle of the night hump. It’s as if he’s sleep-eating with minimal disruption. Until both of my boys were at least 6 months old and on solids, they typically nursed at bedtime, again at a dream feed, and again somewhere between 4-5AM. I’d swaddle them and put them right back to bed. Additional, random wake-ups often signaled a growth spurt…and since we were on a solid routine, I could easily identify them. If we suddenly started having more middle of the night wake ups even with a dream feed, I would nurse them…put them immediately back to bed…and then spend the next 2-3 days making sure they nurse additional times during daylight hours to make sure they had enough calories to make it through the growth spurt. Hope this helps! He’s still an itty-bitty, so at least one early morning nursing session is to be expected. So glad you’ve found a way to get him into a healthy routine that benefits your whole household! What a difference it makes when you’re not frustrated AND trying to parent a toddler AND trying to give attention to a husband :). Life seems bearable again.

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      We talked about this on Sunday in person, but THANK YOU for reminding me of this suggestion of the dream feed, Sarah! I have started doing it these past few nights since you left this comment and it’s already helped so much. We’ll see if he eventually learns to sleep more; I’m still up with him a lot from 3-6am.

  10. Kelley C. May 6, 2013 at 4:04 am #

    Have you read “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman? I really recommend it. She recommends “the pause,” which is not letting your baby cry it out, but allowing them to cry for five to ten minutes before you go get them at night. Many babies are just in between sleep cycles and unlike adults, don’t dive back to sleep immediately between cycles. Give Gil a chance to get himself back to sleep before you intervene. Good luck!

    • Becca May 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      YES, I love that book! I thought I would do the let-cry method for the 5 minutes she suggests, but it did seem like a Really Long Time when I actually had a newborn. I am letting him cry a little more now that he’s older, just to see if he can soothe himself. I’m not as tough as I thought I’d be, though!


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