Wake a sleeping baby to improve sleep…may not be so crazy!
Dr. Harvey Karp MD is another of my favorite sleep gurus. Dr. Karp has written The Happiest Baby on the Block which many of you have read. I teach his technique to “flip the switch” for a crying baby because it works wonderfully! His newest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years, is also full of valuable tips. In this book, Dr. Karp wrote about a technique to help babies learn to go back to sleep on their own after waking. This technique may sound a little nutty, but it really does make sense when you think about it.
With my difficult sleeper #2 child, I tried everything. I would nurse and rock her until her little arm was limp, lay her down in her crib ever so quietly, pat her for a moment and then (yes, I really did this) get down and crawl out of the room on my hands and knees so she hopefully couldn’t see me if her little eyes suddenly fluttered back open. I would do anything to keep her from stirring and waking so I would not have to start the process over again. The truth was, she usually woke about 45 minutes later anyway and couldn’t put herself back to sleep. Babies have very short sleep cycles, and as they cycle from deeper sleep to lighter sleep they often awake. If your baby only knows how to go back to sleep with someone feeding, rocking, swinging, ( or any other soothing technique), it can become a frustrating and exhausting problem.
So what can a parent do? There is nothing more precious than swaddling your baby, nursing or bottle feeding, rocking and then cuddling your sweet little one to sleep. Many newborns can’t STAY awake when feeding and fall asleep every time you hold and feed. So how can you teach your baby to self soothe and settle back to sleep when they awaken transitioning through sleep cycles?
Try this “wake-and-sleep” technique from Dr. Karp:
- When you are ready to settle your baby, turn on a white noise.
- Feed your baby with lots of rocking and cuddling.
- Continue to rock and cuddle your swaddled baby after feeding until asleep.
- As you put your baby into the crib swaddled and with the white noise going THEN jiggle your little one just enough to wake him up just a bit. (sounds crazy, right?)
- Babies that have been fed well and snuggled to sleep are what we call a little “milk drunk”. If your baby is sleeping well when you place him in the crib and then wakes slightly, most often his little eyes will open, kind of roll around a bit or look bleary eyed and then go right back to sleep.
- If your baby does start to cry after you wake him slightly putting into the crib, hold him and pat him back to sleep and try the process again.
Sounds a little crazy to wake a sleeping baby….but this does make sense. You are teaching your baby to self-soothe back to sleep in a very controlled way, without letting your very young baby “cry it out”. Dr. Karp tells parents that after a few weeks of practice, your little one will become better at getting himself back to sleep after normal awakenings, as long as he is not hungry. Hey…I say, if I crawled out of my daughter’s room army style…I think I would have tried this technique too, even if waking a sleeping baby sounds a little crazy. Happy sleep!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.