3-4 months is like the tween years for babies - not quite newborns but not quite babies yet!
In this blog post I'll cover how we can get through this awkward phase by dipping your toes into helping your baby practice self-soothing skills.
First Thing's First: Get Your Routines in Place
Think of the simple, calming steps you want to repeatedly do, in the same order, before placing baby down for bedtime and naps. Even if the time of day isn’t quite consistent, starting to have a consistent routine of what happens before baby goes to bed will drastically help. Even the action of going into baby's sleep space to begin the routine starts to become a calming pattern to them. A bedtime routine for this age could look like: bath, massage with oil (rub downwards), PJs and nighttime diaper, feed (with lights on), sleep sack/swaddle, book, song with rocking and then kisses and bed.
Make Sure You Have Daytime Sleep & The Sleep Space Working in Your Favor
Sleep is a big puzzle. In order to make practicing self-settling at bedtime go as smoothly as possible, you want to be setting your little one up for success from the start. That means making sure your 3-4 month old is getting around 3-4 hours of daytime sleep (4.5 hours maximum). And pay attention to wake windows, the time your baby is up between sleep, as we don't want baby going into bed overly tired or just not really tired at all! For a young 3 month old that window before bed may be around 1.5-1.75 hours and for a month old is likely somewhere around 2 hours. And remember, you want baby falling asleep by that desired maximum wake window.
Now let's make sure the room consists of the following:
- White Noise: Use a continuous white noise machine throughout the night and during nap times. This sleep cue can help them more easily stay asleep if they happened to stir or hear something as it will lull them back to sleep. Avoid nature sounds, we want actual white noise since this mimics how they heard noises while inside the womb for 9 months!
- Darkness: The darker the room the easier it will be for your child to enter a deeper sleep. You really don't even need a night light on, but if you need some light while you feed just have it be a light glow.
- Temperature: Keep the room cool between 68 -72 degrees fahrenheit. And in terms of layers, the general rule is no more than 1 layer more than an adult. If the room is dry, a humidifier is so beneficial and can enhance air flow circulation.⠀⠀
Alright, I Have All of That In Place...What Do I Actually Do?
So you have adequate daytime sleep, created the ideal environment and now have a pre-sleep routine in place...what happens if your baby still doesn't like being placed down in the crib/bassinet to sleep at bedtime or is waking basically every 1-3 hours looking for some help?!
Remember, if baby is fully asleep from rocking, bouncing, feeding, sucking the pacifier, etc. at this age they likely start to wake up every 1-3 hours looking for that reassurance.
When practicing self soothing you need to give them "tastes" at bedtime of needing less of whatever it is that is helping them fall fully asleep before being transferred into the crib/bassinet.
What that means is, you need to start exploring with less rocking, moving feeding up in the routine, even pulling the pacifier out before placing them down into the bassinet/crib. I refer to this as fading - so you're fading it just enough where baby is putting in more "work" to sleep without noticing it much at first!
It's not going to be perfect! You may reach a point in playing around with this when you realize they are now fairly aware of where they are when being placed down to sleep at bedtime and/or naptime.
If baby initially fusses or cries when you place him down in the crib/bassinet and you step back towards the door, try pausing a few seconds before going over to baby. I say a few seconds because maybe you already are waiting 5 seconds, maybe you're waiting 30 seconds, etc. Just pause and create a few seconds longer. This also makes you be more mindful in terms of noticing how long you typically were waiting so you can be more consistent.
Then definitely comfort him while standing near him. So if he needs some help adjusting you can shush loudly near his head and jiggle/vibrate him a bit by placing your hand on his chest and applying slight pressure. If you see he is settling you can walk away or step back. If not, try offering the pacifier (if he takes one) and move him to his left side and rub his back in a circular motion while still shushing near his ear.
If your baby becomes more upset pick him up until he has calmed down and stops crying and is relaxing again. Then try to lay him back down again. You still want to step back or out after this.
You may need to perform this song and dance a couple of times until he becomes more accustomed to falling asleep by putting in slightly more effort on his own. But by being nearby and responding to his cries you are reassuring him and giving him the comfort he needs during the process of learning and practicing self-soothing skills.
If it's been 15+ minutes of trying to get him to sleep in his crib/bassinet pick him up and assist back to sleep! It's OKAY! Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't - that's this tween baby life for you! Making the effort is what counts and do what you need to do to help him sleep and you can always try again later or the next day.
For practicing self-soothing for naps, just focus on nap 1 at first! There's no point in overwhelming baby and trying to fade out or have them go down fully awake instead of drowsy into the crib/bassinet for all of their naps. That can completely backfire (trust me!). Once you feel like baby is doing pretty good with nap 1, test out nap 2 and see how it goes!
This. Takes. Time.: All babies know how to sleep but they don't naturally know how to self-soothe. But remember this is you teaching your baby a new skill so it will simply take time. That's OKAY!!! You won't usually see results overnight, but that doesn't mean your baby isn't learning. So continue a little bit each day and night so they see a pattern and repetition.
Remember, sleep is vital not only for your child's health but yours. So if you can't handle the countless broken nights of sleep let us help you restore peace back into your home!
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