The gist: A consistent schedule plus verbal and physical reassurance help your baby learn to fall asleep (and fall back asleep) on his own.
Why it's right for you:
- Your baby eventually manages to settle down without much intervention from you.
- You want the flexibility to soothe if you choose.
- Your baby seems to like consistency.
How to pull it off: Starting the same time every night, use a 20-minute bedtime routine - a warm bath, a comforting story, dimmed lights, soft music - to signal that it's time to settle down and go to sleep. When it's time for bed, put your baby in his crib while he's drowsy, and then leave him to fall asleep on his own. You can look in on him and soothe him with your voice if he's crying, but avoid picking him up. This will condition him to drift off on his own so that he'll eventually learn to fall back asleep when he awakens during the night. Until then, feel free to respond to his cries as you normally would at night (by nursing or rocking him, say). "It can take up to a week for your baby to get it," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep. "But within two weeks of a baby's falling asleep easily at bedtime, he's likely to start sleeping through the night." After he's able to fall asleep on his own at bedtime and sleep through the night, you can start working on naps in the same way.
What moms say: "The consistency of this method was the secret to our success," says Philadelphia mom Lysa Puma, mom of Madaline. "We start with a bath. Once she's in her pj's, we dim the lights and read two books, Goodnight Moon and Maybe, My Baby. When I put her in her crib, I sing a song and say a list of people who love her. On nights when she's very fussy, we add music."