Baby Wars – A New Hope

We’ve mentioned it before: Sam is awesome. He’s a happy, energetic, lovable little fighter who surprises and delights us each and every day.


He just doesn’t go to sleep very well. It’s not really his fault – his prematurity left him with reflux and a dependence on sleeping at an incline on his back, all strapped down. Yet, he found a way to start sleeping through the night early and fairly well. After only 2 1/2 months, we had a child who was sleeping 7-10 hours a night (in increasing doses). A couple of weeks ago that changed.

As previously noted we moved him from his swing to his crib. It wasn’t really a planned event – he simply had a blowout diaper and we needed to clean the padding of the swing. Not knowing what was going on, though, Sam thought it was playtime and would roll over, pop up onto his hands and knees, and start crawling all around – upset that we were pushing playtime on a child who was clearly tired and needed some shut eye. It took a while, but we finally impressed on him the utility of the crib and he started sleeping in it – POORLY.

You see, it appears as though the straps on his wedge and swing had been holding him down. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he didn’t have anywhere to go, or any means by which to adjust his position so he simply dropped back off to sleep. In the crib he can move all around, he can thrash, he can very effectively wake himself up. All of this combined to turn a baby who would consistently sleep from 8pm – 7am into a newborn who still goes to sleep at 8, but who needs comforted and/or fed at 11, 2, 5, and 7. NOT ideal.

Last night was the first battle in a new war on the sleep problem. Emily and I have come to respect the trust the books written by The Baby Whisperer (a derivative name that does the author an injustice). When it comes to sleeping, she advocates a Pick Up/Put Down methodology (PU/PD). Essentially, she advocates that, when your child wakes up and cries, you wait until those cries go from “I want attention” to “I need help”. At that point, you go into the nursery, pick up the kid and console them. The moment the tears stop and the child starts relaxing, but him back into the crib. The idea behind this is that he needs to know he’s cared for but that he’s also responsible for getting himself back to sleep too.

In practice, it looks kind of…well…foolish. Emily took the first shift (getting him down to sleep in the first place) while I stayed in the other room where I could see her but not distract Sam. Every time she picked him up, he would calm, and the moment she shifted to put him back down, he would start fussing. This went on for 10 minutes and I was sure that PU/PD just wouldn’t work for us. Then a miracle occurred – Emily put him down and he whined a couple times, then rolled onto his side and fell asleep!


We went from a nighttime routine that typically took ~30 minutes to a PU/PD method that took 10-15 minutes. Okay, but how would it work in the middle of the night? At 11:30, he woke up again and this time it was my turn. After waiting a little while to make sure his cries were real calls for need I picked him up, comforted him, and put him back down. Repeat this ten times and, miracle of miracles, he went back to sleep in just 10 minutes. Typically the mid-feed care times have been taking 20-30 minutes, so WIN.

At 2 he woke up and it was Emily’s turn. This time it was a feed so Emily fed him and then went through the PU/PD routine. This time the total effort, including the feeding, took 30 minutes. Typically the middle of the night feeds can take anywhere from 45-60 minutes.

Finally at 5:00, he woke up and started crying. I was just starting to put on my glasses and get up (after waiting for his cries to become more urgent) when the cries stopped. After a couple of snuffles, he went back to sleep without even needing me to do the PU/PD routine.

Finally he woke up at 7 and I got him up for the day – leaving Emily to enjoy another hour of well-deserved rest.

So the final result was the he woke up at the same times last night but the time spent out of bed for us AND for Sam was effectively cut in half. Also, one of the wakeup times, he was able to put himself back to sleep without our help. Hopefully this will turn into him being able to put himself back to sleep every time other when he needs some food.

The Baby Whisperer – poor name, great advice.

2 thoughts on “Baby Wars – A New Hope

  1. will you keep us updated on progress? Rowan is pretty good about the 7pm to 7am….but we wake him at 10pm for a bottle and he wakes us at 4am for a bottle. Would love to lose the 4am!

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