Please watch my video below for “clingy” baby sleep tips.
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To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question comes from Kayla:
“My son Rylen is sort of a “hold me” baby. He won’t sit still or play for anything longer than 10 minutes, usually less if I am there to entertain him. He only sleeps for about 30 minutes a few times a day and he will fall asleep only if I rock him. I’m wondering if you have any tips for getting him to fall asleep on his own and how I can get him to play independently?”
One thing I find from babies who don’t take enough naps or sleep that well during the night is that they tend to be a little bit more on the clingier side. Meaning, they like to be held a lot. They don’t have a very long attention span for other activities, they might cry when you leave the room, they might not want to go to anyone else but you, or they have stranger anxiety, and that has a lot to do with fatigue.
If you think about how you feel on a day when you haven’t have enough sleep, most people are more emotional or a little bit quicker to anger or more impatient, less able to focus. All those things are what a normal person feels when they are experiencing fatigue and so that is most likely what’s happening with your son as well.
The good news is, teaching him how to sleep well and for much longer periods during the day will help improve his general mood. He’ll have more stamina, he’ll have a longer attention span, he’ll be a little bit more independent with his playtime and maybe his coping skills will be higher. He might be able to tolerate you leaving the room for a little bit longer or even spending time with people he doesn’t know as well. That’s the good news. You get there by making changes to his strategy for sleep.
Right now, you rock him. The reason why he is only taking a 30 minute nap is because you are rocking him to sleep then putting him down I imagine. Then he’s doing one sleep cycle and then coming to the end of it is where babies tend to wake up briefly because you’re no longer rocking him.
Now he is fully awake and most babies that wake up in that situation often are crying right at the first flutter of the eyes. They’re upset because they are so tired but not tired enough to actually go back to sleep. Then you get in this vicious cycle of rocking him to sleep. Thirty minutes later, he will get back up and the whole day will go that way.
Saying goodbye to the rocking and helping him find some independent skills will the length of his. I would start at bedtime Kayla and I would do a nice routine leading up to his bedtime, bath, jammies, a feed, and a story. Make sure during the feeding that he’s not using a bottle or the breast as a way to start falling asleep. You want to keep him awake through all feedings, awake through maybe a story afterwards and then into the crib awake.
Because he is so used to being rocked, he is going to be a bit startled by the change and you can expect some crying and protest because he has no real knowledge of how to get to sleep without your help, without being rocked. It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for him to figure out how to get to sleep without being rocked and find his own ways to do this.
I would suggest that you use a stand the room method. That way you can at least be present and supportive and help him through this the best you can. The goal is for Rylen to learn how to fall asleep on his own without being rocked. You are there to be supportive but you have to let him take charge of this now with just some careful touching, say your key phrases.
As your nights go on, you’re going to begin the journey towards the door or where every three days, you’re going to move closer and closer to the door until you’re out of the room all together. Ultimately, your goal is for him to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep all on his own without relying on you at all.
Then you’re going to keep the process going through the night awakenings. Did you mention how old he is, it doesn’t say. If he were a good age where he doesn’t need or require feedings at night, then you would just repeat the process. Go back into his room and sit in your chair until he’s back to sleep. Repeat this process until there are no more night awakenings.
Then you are going to do the same thing for naptime. I would encourage you to set up a little bit of a naptime routine. Maybe go into to his room, read a story, change his diaper, put him in the crib awake or sing a song and put him in the crib. You’re going to use the same three-day process for naps as well until you’re out of the room all together.
If you want to focus on morning naps in the crib then really work on it. You can also keep the option of the nap in the stroller just to encourage him to get enough sleep for the day without going through this two or three times a day. You can get yourself a little break from it. Ultimately, the goal should be that he’s falling asleep in his crib for both nights and naptime. The good news in that all his naps are going to get nice and long and his moods are going to improve as well.
I encourage you to start and get him sleeping better. Thanks for your question. Sleep well!
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