In the book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, the author discusses the idea that it is best to put your baby to bed drowsy but awake. This is important if you want your child to learn how to fall asleep on his own with out your help. If you child awakes in the middle of the night, he will not be depend on you to help him fall back to sleep. A very young baby (under the age of 4 months) will usually need assistance to help calm and sooth before bedtime. It is okay to rock, swing, and walk with your baby to help calm them down, but only do it to the point when your baby is drowsy.
The author also discusses the most common mistake a parents makes is to nurse their child to sleep. The key is to nurse your child only enough to the point where they are drowsy and not totally asleep. She writes:“When he stops sucking energetically and swallowing, and instead is sucking gently, a sort of fluttering motion on your breast (or bottle), he is past the ‘drowsy’ target. In fact, if you look, you’ll see his eyes are probably closed…If he wakes up as you are unlatching him and still seems hungry…give him one more chance. If he starts eating fine let him finish. But if he just goes back to that flutter sucking, you’ve been duped! He isn’t hungry, he just wants to suckle himself to sleep. (p.20)”
Your child may cry a little before falling asleep. It is okay. That is their way of blowing off steam. Some babies need to cry to help themselves fall asleep. My son will cry now, at 6 months, for about 5 minutes before falling asleep. When we first started putting my son to sleep drowsy there would be nights when he would fall asleep with no tears and other nights he would cry for up to 20 minutes. Eventually, the amount of time he would cry decreased and he became more efficient at falling asleep on his own. This was a huge help for when he would awake in the middle of the night on his own. He would fuss and cry for a few minutes, but eventually fall back to sleep on his own without our assistance.
Please feel free to share your stories and success with putting your babies to sleep drowsy!