When McKenna, my third child, was born, I wasn't sure exactly when I was going to start sleep training with her. I like to start early because I hate to teach the baby to need one way to fall asleep (like rocking) only to take that all away several weeks or months later. I think that makes things harder on the baby. However, I also hate listening to my babies cry (who doesn't?) and didn't look forward to the whole sleep training process.
When McKenna was three days old, I read Hogg's Four S plan for teaching a baby how to sleep on her own in The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. I decided to give it a try. It worked! It worked and McKenna still, at three weeks old, has yet to cry for a nap. Not only that, but she wakes at transitions and goes back to sleep without crying.
I am sure many of you are very interested in what these Four S's are. I am going to share them with you, along with my own tidbits. However, if you want to try these Four S's yourself, I highly recommend you read what Hogg has to say. I read over the Four S's about 30 times before executing it. I wanted to be sure I understood the method. These are found on pages 182-186.
- Setting the Stage: The first S is setting the stage. This is your sleep ritual; it is your routine before a nap or bedtime. See the post Sleep Routine for my thoughts on this. You want your routine to be the same before naps and same before bed. Routine is a signal to babies and children. Even a newborn can start to recognize patterns. Make your routine calm. Set the stage in the room to the needs of your baby for successful sleep.
- Swaddling: The next thing you do is swaddle your baby. Hogg says to do this even if your baby does not like being swaddled. I have been asked if swaddling is a sleep prop and something that is anti-babywise. I do not think that swaddling is anti-babywise. Babies have no control over their limbs, and this can really wake them up. Some babies have better control than others. For example, McKenna has better control over her limbs at this age than Kaitlyn did. If she breaks her swaddle, she can still stay asleep. But those arms can get going and really freak her out at times. Most babies stop being swaddled with no problems around 3-4 months. Some can stop sooner. Some go on longer. Some babies have some transition time. But most stop the swaddle and sleep even better because they have arm control and are able to sleep more comfortably. See the blog label Swaddling for more on this.
- Sitting: For me, this is where the real magic of the Four S's lies. With Kaitlyn, I had my sleep routine and my swaddling. But I did not have the sitting. Once your baby is swaddled, you sit. You hold baby with her in the vertical position. Plan on sitting like this for about five minutes. You sit still. You don't rock, jiggle, pace, etc. You are sitting and holding her without stimulating her. You will feel her body relax and perhaps jerk a little. You then give a kiss, say what you say, then put her down in her bed. You want her in bed before she falls asleep. You then leave the room so long as she doesn't cry. You trust that she can fall asleep on her own.
- Shush-pat: I haven't ever had to use the fourth S. You use this S if your baby cries. You keep baby in the crib and whisper "shh, shh, shh" while patting her back. Hogg has a long description on how to employ this step successfully, so if you need it, I recommend you read her description, especially since I have no experience with it.
Another thing I really like about the sitting is that it is a quiet time for me to hold McKenna at the end of each cycle. I hold her a lot during feeding and burping, but those aren't moments where all I am doing is enjoying holding her. I am focusing on her taking a full feeding and getting that air bubble out. With the sitting, I am able to just relax and hold her for a few minutes before her nap. Any mom with more than one child knows that this is harder to come by.
This method is great because it teaches your baby to fall asleep on her own from the beginning of life without other things that can be props (like rocking to drowsy). As McKenna gets older, I see the need for the sitting becoming less pertinent.
If you plan to use this method, I recommend you also read the CIO Bootcamp: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/cio-bootcamp.html. This post will help you time things right and help you to know how to read your baby.
Want to know how I liked it? Here is my post The 4 S's Three Years Later. You can also see how I did it with my fourth baby, Brinley, here at "Four" S's In Action.
- baby whisperer (blog label)
- CIO Bootcamp: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/cio-bootcamp.html
- Sleep Routine
- Swaddling (blog label)