Understanding Infant Sleep and Sleep Crutches
It is bedtime, and, with a pit in your stomach, you begin your finely choreographed routine to get your baby to sleep. After bathing him and getting him all diapered and dressed in his P.J.'s and sleep sack, you sit down in a chair in the nursery to nurse him to sleep.
Once he looks like he is asleep (You have become an expert), you deftly slip a paci in his mouth, stand up like a prima ballerina, and without missing a beat, decide to cash in on the insurance package you bought a while ago called; "The Rocking To Sleep Package." The white noise machine is whooshing to a fine level to muffle the deafening creak in the floorboard, to the left of the crib. The hall light is on, and the nursery door is open to ensure a successful and well-executed escape plan.
Ever-so-carefully you move to the crib, hold your breath and hoist your whole body into a gravity-defying position that could be from the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and lower him into the crib. A stealth warrior, you silently float from the air to the ground, pause, and tip-toe backward out of the nursery while praying to the sleep gods that your baby will stay asleep.
Why? Because if you went to sleep with someone doing your job, you can't expect you could do that job later.
From your sweet baby's POV:
1. I went to sleep nursing in my mom's arms, sucking, rocking, and it was light in here. Now, I am alone, not sucking, not eating, not moving, and it is entirely dark because that door is closed.
2. What are they thinking?! I can't grab a pacifier, reinsert it, rock myself, get milk, turn the light on, etc. Come back, stealth warrior mom, and take care of this for me! I have no idea how to do this!
How your baby falls asleep is everything. He needs to be able to go to sleep and wake up in the same environment. If it has changed, it's like you moved the goalposts!
He must be able to re-create how he fell asleep to go back to sleep. He needs to be awake going into the crib. Loving him and caring for him, supporting him as you teach him and as he learns is your job. Self-soothing and learning to sleep are his jobs.
When you are ready to teach your baby to sleep, make sure, you map out a clear plan of action. Remember, what makes sense to you often does not make sense to him!
Children need clarity and consistency.
Does that make sense?