Readers give advice for getting baby to sleep

Friday, April 18, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:21 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 7, 2008

Editor’s note: Jake Sherlock and his wife, Jenny, celebrated the birth of their first child, Audrianna, on March 4. They’ve chosen to share the challenges and experiences of being first-time parents in this column. Look for it periodically here at

Before Audrianna was born, Jenny and I thought we had the sleeping thing all figured out.

For one, she was going to sleep in a crib in our bedroom for the first several months. For two, we wouldn’t talk to her in the middle of the night so that she would learn that nighttime is for sleeping. Third, we would take turns staying up with her so that the other one could get some sleep.

Oh, how naïve we were.

Audrianna is now sleeping in her nursery full time with the baby monitor on. She is often spoken to in the middle of the night as we try to calm her down, but we’re working to get better about that. And as for taking turns, well, that’s nice in theory, but when only one of you produces breast milk, it does tend to limit the options.

We had our struggles with Audrianna sleeping through the night, but the past couple of weeks have gotten a lot better. Moving her downstairs and letting her occasionally cry herself to sleep has worked wonders. Now, instead of her setting the sleep schedule for all of us, we’re back in control.

We received a host of good advice on getting Audrianna to sleep through the night. While the “let her cry” approach worked for us, here is some other advice we’ve received recently:

Kathy Maynard said she learned this idea from her pediatrician, Robert Harris: Lay the baby down awake and let him or her cry for about five minutes. After five minutes, rub the baby’s back and whisper a little something. “That way she knew we were around, but she needed to sleep,” Mrs. Maynard wrote in an e-mail. If the baby is still crying after another 10 minutes, do the same thing, but never pick them up.

“It was a little tough listening to your newborn cry,” Mrs. Maynard wrote. But after a few nights, she was able to sleep four to six hours at a time before she needed to be fed.

Jill Gamlin found the best advice in the book “On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep.”

“The basic premise is to never put your baby into the crib (where she should be sleeping) while she is asleep,” Mrs. Gamlin wrote in an e-mail. “She needs to learn to fall asleep on her own. Also, you have to keep her awake for the full feeding. You can rub her feet, etc. The old way was to feed the baby and then put them to bed. This clearly does not work, as you can attest to.”

For Jen Stem, a car ride was a good way to get her two sons to fall asleep as infants.

“My boys would fall asleep in their car seat as well and would wake up if we took them out,” Mrs. Stem wrote. “Our solution was to put the baby carrier, with sleeping child, into the crib. This helped us out many nights and allowed us to get some long overdue winks ourselves.”

She also cautioned us about falling asleep with Audrianna, which we did several times before getting her into her new routine.

“I am a VERY light sleeper myself, but going through sleep deprivation can make you sleep harder,” Mrs. Stem wrote. “I fell asleep quite a few times with my little ones tucked in my arms after a middle-of-the-night feeding but always woke up terrified that I had suffocated one of them.”

Besides suffocation, letting babies sleep in the same bed can lead to separation issues later in life, said Sarah Bunn, a longtime friend who lives in New Zealand. Though we’ve never met face-to-face, we’ve battled it out in online backgammon leagues for several years and have established a wonderful friendship. She has three children, ages 21, 18 and 15, so when it comes to raising kids, she knows her stuff.

Her book recommendation is “Toddler Taming” by Christopher Green. It helped her and her husband John get through those late, sleepless nights.

“We used to sit and read it together when the babies were screaming at 2 a.m. — so that we didn’t end up screaming at each other,” she said only half-jokingly. “I reinvented some wonderful words to call John. Thank goodness he realized I was sleep deprived and not really meaning what I was saying.”

The real irony of getting babies to sleep, Sarah says, is in 15 years or so the sleepless nights will start again.

“Hate to tell you this, but when the kids are teenagers you will be lying awake waiting for them to come home — and then they sleep in and you can’t,” she said.

Do you have more tips for getting babies to sleep, or more warnings for what we can expect later in Audrianna’s life? If so, please leave a comment below.

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