My son is 3 1/2 months old. During the day, I can get him to take some short naps on me or in the stroller, but if I try to put him in his crib (even swaddled), he wakes up immediately. At night, he sleeps well in his crib, but I have to make sure he’s well asleep before putting him in it (he doesn’t self-soothe). Is he too young for sleep training? And what is the best method? (My husband isn’t a fan of the idea of “cry it out,” although he’s on board with an increasing time method for it, i.e. checking in at one minute, then three minutes, etc.). Thank you for your help!
The most important thing to keep in mind while addressing any issue with our children is that something is only a problem if you feel that it’s a problem. From what you’ve written, it seems that you don’t have any issues with your baby’s night sleep; as you said, he sleeps well in his crib at night. Is it safe to say that you really just want to improve his daytime sleep? I wouldn’t prematurely introduce any new methods, when in reality you just want some structure to your days.
That being said, there seem to be two main ideas to address here with your baby’s day sleep. Firstly, it is typical for babies this age to take such short naps during the day because their sleep cycle finishes at that 40-45 minute mark. The problem is, however that after your son completes this sleep cycle, he then wakes up and is unable to transition to the next sleep cycle on his own, hereby waking himself up.
The second issue is his inability to fall asleep independently, which is completely normal and healthy at his age. Babies are very smart and your son is already learning about the cause and effect of the world around him. When your baby is falling asleep in one scenario (being nursed, rocked, held, etc.) and then awakens from his sleep cycle, he is no longer in the environment he was in initially when he fell asleep (i.e. he fell asleep in his stroller and is now in his crib). Because of this, he then awakens fully when his body really isn’t rested enough nor able to go back to sleep on his own. (Think about how disorienting it would be if you fell asleep in your bed and woke up on your kitchen floor! You’d probably wake up too.)
I don’t ever advocate crying methods, as we want to be gentle and loving, never forcing habits that aren’t natural. Unfortunately, the term “sleep training“ has a negative connotation, but by helping your son into better daytime sleep rhythms, you can help everyone sleep better. He is definitely not too young to do this as you can begin introducing patterns as early as 5-6 weeks of age.
I suggest by beginning to implement a daily routine for your baby. If you already have one in place, it’s possible that he isn’t responding well to it and needs some adjustments. Pay attention to his cues: When does he generally seem tired? Are you attempting to put him to sleep after he’s already been irritable for quite some time? Is his eating routine regular? These are typical questions to ask yourself before beginning to implement a routine.
Every baby is different and has completely different sleep needs, but below please find a possible routine that might work for you:
7:00 AM Formula or breastmilk
9:00 AM Morning nap
10:30 AM Formula or breastmilk
12:00 PM Afternoon nap
2:00 PM Formula or breastmilk
4:00 PM Late afternoon nap
5:00 PM Formula or breastmilk
6:45 PM Bedtime snack of formula or breastmilk
7:00 PM *GOOD NIGHT!
*Please note that this is a generic routine and all babies thrive on various schedules and eating patterns.
Do you have a sleep question for Batya? Send it into firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Sleep Coach.”