five + two =

How To (Not) Rock Your Baby To Sleep

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 12:37 am | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke and Mackenzie are 4 ½ months. Two weeks ago, I hired a new nanny from China who has been nannying for five years in the US. On the third day she started working with us, Brooke fussed a little bit before her morning nap. My nanny immediately picked her up and rocked her to sleep. Brooke fell asleep in her arms. I didn’t say anything but I made a mental note because in my house, we never rock our children to sleep.

Another time, she told me that babies like to drink milk before sleeping, so as soon as Brooke started fussing before her nap, the nanny started feeding her some milk. In my observation, this did not shorten the fussing time. I could tell that the nanny was experienced and I didn’t say anything once again.

Sunday and Monday came (nanny’s days off) and it was just me and the kids. Again, Brooke was fussy before her nap. I just let her fuss and eventually it became full-out crying. I let her cry for 3 minutes and then went in, picked her up, patted her until she became calm and then put her down again. Lo and behold, she started screaming again. So I let her cry for another 3 (LONG, it’s so hard to listen to your baby cry) minutes, went in and did the same thing. I did this 4 times in total, till she finally fell asleep.

The next day, she was fussy AGAIN at nap time. I did the same thing. This time, she fell asleep after 2 times. And then that afternoon, I left her on the play mat and she fell asleep by herself, no fussing at all.

The funny part, when the nanny arrived the next day, Brooke did the same thing again. Babies are smart, they know who’s around – who will spoil them and who will not. I told the nanny to leave her to me. It was clear it was just gonna be mommy! And she quickly fell asleep – no rocking, no milk.

I had to have a conversation with the nanny about the whole thing. From her point of view, she, being my employee, didn’t want me to think she was leaving the baby to cry. I reassured her that in this household, it was okay to employ our strategy: if the baby fusses before sleeping (and it’s clear she is not wet, hungry or needs to be burped and that she is really just tired or fussy), let her cry for a few minutes, pick her up to comfort her, then put her straight down. No rocking, no milk, nothing. Just put her down and repeat if necessary. A couple days later, Brooke was back to her old self: we put her down in her bed and she puts herself to sleep.

I want to raise independent, happy children. When babies can put themselves to sleep, they are learning to be independent, without needing an adult to fall asleep. And this makes for happier babies.

Reader Comments

  1. I’ve read all the sleep training books and philosophies – that it makes for more confident, independent children. (Tizzie Hall, Spock, Ferber and many more). Ultimately I decided not to leave my baby to cry. The fact that breast milk has hormones that induce sleepiness contributed to this choice. It would be very hard to parent twins and caring for children can require a lot of self sacrifice. In conclusion though, my children are notably confident, independent and mature for their age. Night waking may be protective against SIDS and definitely when breastfeeding and sharing sleep space leads to suppressed fertility for longer, hence in other cultures with no contraception, it is an effective method (ecological breastfeeding). By the way, we love floor sleep 🙂

    Sunday, August 25th, 2013 5:25 pm | Gem

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