As a new mother, you tend to be on the receiving end of all sorts of advice; from parents and non-parents alike. As if trying to raise a child isn't hard enough in itself, sometimes the plethora of this well intentioned advice can be overwhelming (and let's be honest, at times even unwelcomed). So when it came to the matter of how to get my baby to sleep in the crib, I was not lacking in input from a variety of sources.
What I came to learn is that there is no 1-size-fits-all approach. As a general rule of thumb, it's commonly recommended that bubs should be in the parents' room until at least 6 months but preferably 12 months. Mothers in my mothers group reported a variety of times that this occurred including some who still co-sleep.
One dad told me that the night his little girl was brought home from the hospital, she was such a loud snorer that she was put in their own room the next night. She is now 10 years old and healthy and thriving.
What I have observed from my own personal circle, is that teaching your baby to sleep in their crib (in a seperate room), is often liberating for the dad (for obvious reasons) but for mum, it can be a little sad. It's a daunting feeling thinking about how hard it is for a little one to settle and can create a bit of separation anxiety for both parties. Then there's simply the impracticability of having to get up multiple times a night to walk to the nursery, feed, walk back & get back to sleep.
Each child will adjust in their own way, and it may be easier than you think. To those first time mummas, putting your mind at ease by having a baby monitor or sensor pad under the mattress to detect motion, can be useful. A couple of unsettled nights is more than likely but it will settle down if you take some steps to instill a night time routine to help bubs feel safe and settle.
Establish A Routine
It wasn't until our little man was 13 months when we finally established some sort of routine that we were able to (mostly) stick with. It starts at 5pm with dinner (either at child care or at home) followed by a bath at 5.30pm or 6pm, then pajamas, book, a little bit more play time if bubs isn’t settled, a 6pm bottle and down to bed at 6:30-7pm.
We incorporate the words, ‘Night night,’ ‘Love you,’ ‘Have a good sleep,’ ‘Sweet dreams,’ ‘See you in the morning,’ and anything else that lets him know we love him and that sleep is a good thing. It's much the same as things we adults say to each other like, ‘Have a good weekend,’ 'I love you,' and ‘See you soon,’ to let each other know we are connected. A midwife at the hospital told me once to think of babies as little humans (um, wow - amazing right?). Her rationale for this is that if comforting is true for us, then how can it not be true for them as well? After all, they are not little animals. They are little people with high functioning brains (that are developing) who can problem solve and understand things from a very young age.
Comforting & Other Bits
I'm personally at the point where I can’t stop rocking him to sleep yet because he is so darn cute and I want to hug him and hold him close for as long as he’ll let me. Pretty soon he’ll be too big and it will be impossible. But the patting and shushing usually continues when I put him down in the cot. We don't leave any teddies in the cot (just bubs and the dummy) and we make sure there are no cords or reachable choking hazards within reach. Just like us, we ensure our baby has a clean and comfortable sleeping environment which includes breathable cot bumpers, a clean nappy, a sleeping bag, no loose sheets or dunas that can cover the baby’s face, a good temperature and making sure he's well fed. All of these things help to create the best chance for a crib transition success.
Remember there is no hard and fast rule for routines but they can help.