Despite what the books say, your baby will inevitably (and often) wake up early from his naps and night-time sleep periods. When this happens (and given that he is not ill), as a PRACTICAL PARENT you have some choices – but the first tool to try is our 15-minute rule.
It’s based on the idea that even the healthiest of babies will predictably cry, whimper, or whine during the 5-20 minutes while they’re transitioning between sleep cycles. If you rush in, you don’t allow your baby the opportunity to fall back to sleep on his own. By rushing in, you also prevent your baby from learning the essential skill of self-soothing.
Here are the steps to follow for our 15-Minute Rule:
STEP 1: Instead of entering the nursery, look at your clock and/or start a timer (mentally or actually set one) for 15 minutes.
STEP 2: If your baby is still really crying after the 15-minute mark, go into the nursery, turn on the light, pick him up, change his diaper, and re-swaddle him. Burping him is also a good idea as sometimes gas could be the issue, especially if he’s waking up close to when you put him down.
STEP 3: Check the nursery for any conditions that would prevent him from falling back to sleep (i.e. what is the temperature of the room,whether the sound machine is too low or too loud, or if a pet got left in his room! etc.)
STEP 4: Then put him back into his crib and gently rub or pat his side or forehead while saying some soothing words to him like: “It’s nap time,” “It’s okay, Sweetie,” “You’re just falling back to sleep,” and “I love you very much.” Do this for about two minutes.
STEP 5: Turn on his crib soother machine (which you should have permanently set to last between 10-15 minutes), turn off the lights (leaving on a low night lite) leave the room, and close the door. He will most likely continue to cry, but you need to leave at this point. It’s heartbreaking for you but remember, you’re doing what’s best for your baby – you’re teaching him how to sleep!
STEP 6: Give him a few minutes (3-5) to fall back to sleep. If your baby is still really crying after that time, start the 15-minute timer again and repeat the process – but the second (and third) time you go in, do not change his diaper or take him out of the crib. If you need to re-swaddle him, do it in the crib. Say soothing phrases to him again for a couple of minutes and leave.
STEP 7: Repeat the process up to three times total. If the third time doesn’t do the trick, feed your child early and then catch him up to the schedule gradually during the day.
Related Posts: Are You Doing the 15-Minute Rule Right?, Nursery Night One!, 3-Key Burping Basics, Crib Soothers, Soother Sound of Magic, Magical Nighttime Routine, Crib Essentials, Nursery Organization Must-Haves, Why is My Baby Crying?, Crying Facts, PPB FAQ’s, Solve Early Nap Waking,Sleeping Milestones, Put Baby Down Awake, Wedge of Reason, Napping No-No’s, Troubleshooting Naps, Baby Monitors, Swaddling
*Here’s an important “Time”article debunking the science behind Dr. Sears’ claims that crying-it-out for any length of time is dangerous or causes emotional harm.
*Also read the findings of a study done by “Pediatrics” (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) showing no short or long term differences in children who were or were not sleep-trained as infants.