This is a really perfect hands on gentle and responsive settle method you can use for your baby under 4 months of age.
First thing to remember that timing is everything. Your baby needs to be ready for sleep to actually sleep so if you put baby down to soon they will be under tired and of course struggle to sleep. Put baby down too late and they will be overtired and find it hard to switch off and settle. It can be really hard to know when the right time is for that all important nap so I created the Ultimate Nap Guide for you to download HERE and this will help you understand and time those wake windows and nap timings.
The next thing to remember that infants often need a lot of support to sleep. This is absolutely normal and expected. Once their maternal stores of melatonin wears of around 4-6 weeks they seem to wake up to the world and those naps can be harder to achieve and so yes, you may find once your baby went into their crib happily and drifted off to sleep but suddenly they need a lot more help. This is OKAY and normal and you will not be creating any bad habits by supporting them to sleep in these early months.
You are going to be teaching your baby new skills, remember this is the first time they are learning to fall asleep perhaps independently so of course they need to practice first just like we practice riding a bike with trainer wheels first before we take them off…
Get the Stage Set First
Having the right sleep environment is going to help you immensely when supporting your baby to sleep.
Bedroom cool (16.-20.c as advised by the Lullaby Trust)
Comfortable clothing appropriate to room temp
Swaddle or sleep bag
White /pink noise
Baby is not hungry or due a feed during nap time
Nap Time Routine
Having a 5 minute nap time routine will help your baby get into the “zone” This does not have to be complicated at all. It is actually very simple. Go to the bedroom, change nappy if required, take of any warmer/thick/uncomfortable clothes and swaddle /put on sleep sack. (I recommend a swaddle up to the stage when your baby starts to show signs of rolling over. You can read more about swaddles HERE. Once your baby is all cosy have some cuddles/story time or song time. That’s it! 5 minutes! Easy!
The Side Settle
1. Once you have done the nap time routine and your baby is calm lay your baby into their cot.
2. Roll your baby onto their side supporting them comfortably with you hand so they DO NOT ROLL over onto their tummy. With your other hand confidently and consistently pat your baby’s bottom. If you baby is crying mimic their cry with firmer pats and as they calm use gentler pats. You need to do this until you baby is lulled into sleep.
3. Once fully asleep very gently and carefully roll your baby onto their back. NEVER leave baby on their side or tummy to sleep in a swaddle.
4. If your baby becomes very distressed, upset and not calming pick your baby up and gently cuddle and rock to help calm and settle and the repeat the side settle process again.
This action of rhythmically patting your baby’s bottom replicates the soothing sensation of a constant heartbeat your baby would have experienced in the womb. In fact, when the baby was in the birth position with their head down, the mother's heartbeat could have been felt near the baby's bottom. Do be careful you do not back the lower back as this is where their kidneys lie! Bottom only!
All babies are unique and learning to sleep is a skill. Some babies take too it super easily and others need a lot more support and time. Know this is normal, this is expected and be confident your baby can and does like to sleep and will do it, it just may take some more practice!
Consistency helps so the more your practice the better baby becomes and only do this if you want to. There is no one saying you must do this and if sleep happens in a different way and works for your baby and you then there is no need to change it.
Don't forget to share this blog with a new parent out there you know may benefit from this very gentle hands on responsive settle technique.
Peaceful sleeping to you all,
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant