How to Get Your Baby To Go the Bleep to Sleep (Through the Night)

Miguel thumb suckingSo here’s our story. We became addicted to the pacifier. I LOVE the pacifier. It’s my lifeline multiple times a day. But it was definitely a form of torture when I found myself nodding off and waking up in 10-minute intervals to shove the damn thing back into my son’s mouth. All. Night. Long. So after a few weeks of doing this and feeling like an actual zombie, I vowed to find a way to break the habit and get him to sleep through the night. And I’m hoping that by sharing my story, you, too, shall be saved.

The Background

I started reading about all the sleep-training methods. There was the pick-up/put-down method, where you literally pick-up your child whenever they cry, get them to stop crying, then put them back down, and repeat as many times as it takes – even if it’s 100 times a night. No thanks.

Then there was the “cry-it-out” method, where you put your kid in the crib at 7pm and literally don’t come back until 7am, no matter what – like, not even if they’re throwing up because they’ve been crying so much. My heart hurts to even mention it. I come across all tough, but that shit is crazy.

So I came up with my own method. (But only after threatening Miguel that I would do cry-it-out if this didn’t work.) My method: Constructive crying & thumb sucking – CCTS? (I’m still working on coming up with a cooler name). Let’s call it the Marcus Method.

I started with daytime practice before throwing Miguel in the ring. I helped him hone his self-soothing skills by letting him fuss for a couple minutes before giving him the paci. He started finding his fingers and thumb more and more. After a couple of days, he could put himself to sleep for naps… without the paci. Don’t go crazy here; I recommend trying this in an environment where you know they’re more likely to fall asleep, like during a stroller ride.

(Mind you, I’ll probably regret teaching him how to suck his thumb when he’s 5 and still doing it, but I’ll take the extra year of sleep it’s about to save me and deal with it later. And for the record, we do still use the paci, but only when needed. Like when we’re at a nice restaurant and don’t want to be “that couple.”)

When you’re ready to commit to game time at night, make sure you get some black out shades and a white noise machine. We are by no means silent once we put the kids to bed. In fact, we’re often doing dishes, talking to each other, watching TV, or all of the above. For us, the white noise is more about the random noises in the middle of the night that will wake up the little ones (garbage trucks, sirens, drunks, neighbors who insist on playing music after 9pm (hello, don’t they know there are sleeping babies in the world?), those incredibly disrespectful, insecure men who rev their motorcycles).

Develop a bare bones basic nighttime ritual. Some parents have to do a bath, read stories, sing songs, rock, nurse, rock, formula, burp, rock again, etc. every single night in the exact same way or their kid won’t sleep. For us, it’s just about winding down about 20 minutes before bed with low stimulation like dim lighting, no TV (or at least no facing the TV, hah!), and relatively low volumes. If we get a bath every other night, great. (Let’s be honest, there will be nights when you just don’t have the energy to give a bath, so better not to make this a crutch.)

The Marcus Method

  • Nurse or bottle-feed for the last few minutes in the bedroom, with the white noise on and blackout shades lowered. Then, burp thoroughly. I put Miguel up over my shoulder with both of his arms hanging down my back and just walk slowly around the room until I get 1-3 burps. If you don’t get a burp, you’ll risk dealing with a gassy baby in the middle of the night, so don’t skip this step.
  • Then, lay him down in the crib drousy but awake. And immediately leave and shut the door. Leaving the baby drousy is key. If he already passed out while nursing, you did the work for him and he won’t know what to do when he wakes up in the middle of the night without a nipple in his mouth.
  • If he fusses, let him. If he cries (like a real, desperate cry) for 2-3 consecutive minutes, go in, gently rub his belly, say “shhhh”, and leave the room. This lets him know you’re not abandoning him to be eaten by a bear. Usually when I do this, Miguel will start searching for his fingers/thumb, and after a few minutes, he puts himself back to sleep.
  • If after the 4th time it still hasn’t worked, offer the paci. And if that doesn’t work… (disclaimer: I don’t technically know what to tell you cause it worked for me)… I would suggest your last resort, tried-and-true soothing method, like nursing til drowsy… and then try the cycle again.
  • The point of this whole operation is that you’re letting your baby learn how to self-soothe in a way that says “I’m here for you kid, but mama’s gotta sleep or she’s gonna lose it.” It’s a learned skill, so it might take a few nights.

The Power of Routine

  • You don’t need a schedule, but do follow a routine for when the baby should be eating, sleeping, etc. I like the Eat, Activity, Sleep cycle. First I feed Miguel, then we do some activity like tummy time, and then I put him down for a nap. So our day looks something like this:

7am: eat
7:30-8:30am: activity
8:30-10:30am: sleep
10:30am: eat
11am-12pm: activity
12-2pm: sleep
2pm: eat
2:30-4: activity
4-5:30: sleep
5:30pm: eat
6-8pm: activity, bath
8pm: catnap
8:30pm: eat (I wake him gently for this if he’s sleeping)
9pm: in crib

Following a routine helps you understand why your child might be crying – Tired? Hungry? Overstimulated? The routine helps avoid problems like cat napping, snacking, and crankiness. Your baby will be rested enough to wake up and eat a full meal without falling asleep halfway through, then be alert enough to get some healthy stimulation, which then wears them out enough to get a solid 1 ½ -2 hour nap.

So that’s it. Miguel has been sleeping from 9pm to 6 or 7am every night since he was 10 weeks old. Just in time for Joaquin to start rebelling his bedtime. Which will lead me to my next post: How to Get Your Toddler to Go the Bleep to Sleep.

Helpful Resources
-White noise machine: Graco Sweet Slumber
-Books on sleep: The Happy Sleeper, Moms On Call, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
-Soothing “lovies”: Taggies
Blackout shades (cut, peel and stick)

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