I received the following questions from Cari, and thought that others might want to add their own advice. I didn’t ask, but assumed she had already read my old post about training babies to sleep through the night.
Q. Do you put your newborn on a feeding schedule? (I have never done this, but am reading Managers of Their Homes and they schedule their newborns nursings and sleeping…)
A. I don’t schedule my newborns, but I do find that they generally settle into a loose schedule on their own after a few weeks. I also try to avoid the opposite end of the spectrum – I don’t feed every single time the baby fusses. I feed when they are hungry, and put them to bed when they are tired. This is what has worked best for us, and all of our children have been very good sleepers from a very young age.
Q. You say that you encourage ‘thumb-sucking.” We haven’t done this with previous children, although we are open to new ideas. Our concern is that the baby/toddler won’t give up thumb-sucking. Have you found this to be true and how do you get them to stop?
A. All of ours have given up the habit on their own, usually by 2 or 3 years. A few persisted to 4 or 5, mostly when they were very tired. In general, once they mature past the desire to suck (nursing babies/toddlers) we think it’s often a security issue. Every child is different but in our own experience, confident, secure children tend to quit on their own with minimal help; shy or insecure children need more encouragement.
Q. How do you comfort a baby in the middle of the night? It seems that our babies are up quite frequently. I have usually nursed them or tried to comfort them. Do you let them cry if you know that they have been fed, changed, etc.? I guess letting them cry is very difficult for me, but I also know that I need to be sane for our growing family!!
A. When our babies wake in the middle of the night, I wait for a good solid cry before I respond. I wait longer for older babies. I don’t generally let them “cry it out” but I just want to make sure that the baby needs me and isn’t going to fall right back to sleep on her own.
If the baby still wakes up regularly for feedings, I keep it short, quiet and dark. No diaper changes unless absolutely necessary, no playtime, no socializing, no rocking to sleep. I also try to keep the feeding itself as
short as possible in order to begin to train the baby’s digestive system to wait for morning.
If the baby typically sleeps through the night, I go to her but leave the light off. I talk softly and soothingly, and I might rub her back, but I avoid picking her up. Usually she will quiet down and go back to sleep. If not, I will go back once or twice. If the baby is older and I’m sure she has no needs (diaper is clean, ate a good dinner and shouldn’t be hungry now, not sick…) then I might let her cry herself to sleep.
Q. Do you have any other tips or books that you might recommend?
A. [I'm afraid I totally left Cari hanging here. Anyone have a suggestion?]
I think one key to raising good sleepers is simply consistency. If you don’t want something to become habit for your child, don’t start it in the first place.
I’m working through it once again with our newest baby. She’s a new puzzle for me: sleeps fabulously at night, very little during the day and is an utter crank by afternoon. But we’re figuring each other out, and settling into a schedule of our own. Every child is different.