Babies must eventually learn how to sleep away from their mothers. This transition takes some time, and new parents can help by establishing good sleeping habits for their newborns. The added benefit of creating good sleep habits for the baby is that parents also get more rest!
Most recommendations focus on developing routines and habits for babies that encourage them to associate sleeping with nighttime. The sooner parents can get their children to associate bedtime with sleeping, the more likely the children will be able to go to sleep without making a fuss.
However, the transition period, the time that exists between being awake and going to sleep, is often overlooked in these recommendations. Several techniques can be applied during this period.
One technique is known as “fathering down.” Just before putting the baby into the bed, the father should cradle his baby so that the baby’s head lies on the father’s neck. The father should talk to his child gently. Babies are often soothed by a male voice because it is deeper than the female voice, and they may fall asleep more easily after hearing the father’s voice for a time.
Another technique is called “wearing down.” This can be especially effective if a baby has been active all day and is too excited to be put to bed easily. Put the baby in a sling or carrier and “wear” him or her for approximately 30 minutes before bedtime. Perform your usual tasks. The baby will experience an easier transition from wakefulness to sleep because of being close to you and being slowly rocked by your general movements before bedtime.
If these techniques fail, you may want to try “driving down.” This is a method of last resort and involves putting the baby in the car and driving around for a period of time until the baby falls asleep. While this method is somewhat inconvenient, it is usually effective. If you need some well-deserved rest, “driving down” is an attractive option.
Of course, you don’t want to get into the habit of driving the baby around in the car every night! And you don’t want to always carry the baby in sling before bed to encourage sleep. The idea is to use these techniques and slowly ease away from them. You should only use them during the major transition that your new baby experiences when he or she has never slept alone before. The baby does not know how to handle the transition, so you must teach him or her how to go from being awake to being asleep. These transition techniques can gradually be eliminated as the baby learns good bedtime habits, and both you and the baby can then have a good night’s sleep!