Our goal is to put your newborn down drowsy, but awake. As baby approaches 12 weeks, we will work on incrementally putting baby down more awake/less drowsy, until baby falls asleep from wide awake, without any sleep props or lingering eat to sleep association.
Drowsy but awake: What does this look like? In the perfect world, baby would be calm, relaxed, and eyes started to get heavy, but not yet closed. Baby would be laid down, and settle to sleep. Babies are not always so easy though, and may not always show this drowsy state. If this is the case, we are looking for baby to be tired, but calm.
What is a Sleep Prop?
A sleep prop is anything your baby relies on in order to get to the drowsy state, or to get to sleep. One of the most crucial elements for teaching children to fall asleep, and stay asleep, is avoiding sleep props, and allowing them to develop self-soothing strategies. If your child depends on a “prop” to fall asleep – such as breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, patting, rocking, or even sucking on parents’ fingers– then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.”
At this stage, one of the most common sleep props is feeding to sleep. Have it in your mind that you will try not to feed (breast or bottle) to sleep. Of course, this is next to impossible to achieve 100% of the time, and putting your baby down in his crib already asleep from time to time is fine. I also want to note that it is okay to have the feeding as one of your last steps before bed at this age. As baby approaches the 12-week point, we will move the feeding to the beginning of the bedtime routine.
What's the Deal with Pacifiers?
These can be a great tool for helping newborns calm down and bridge the gap between one sleep cycle to the next. I will encourage you to use the pacifier in times when it seems like we have missed the window and baby is pushing into over tiredness, or if we are trying to extend a nap time. We do need to use the pacifier with some caution though because babies can become dependent on the pacifier for sleep and then it is a sleep prop. If the baby begins to associate the pacifier with every sleep situation, then it will interfere with the natural development of consolidated sleep. Therefore we will offer the baby lots of opportunity to fall asleep without it.