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Sleep training in weeks one through six

As short as a few weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our son.  He has been a treasure and a blessing.  As new parents, we learned quickly that it is difficult to decipher what his cries mean.  Most of the time I assumed he was hungry, needed a change, or wanted to be held.  I was unaware that newborns could be bored, overstimulated, and/or overtired.  In addition, it seems that with every few days his noises change slightly.  Lately his pitch is slightly higher, the volume has gotten louder, the length of his cries has increased, and his cries seem to have changed meaning.  

A mistake that I have been consistently making is putting a bottle in his mouth every time he cried.  I think this is a mistake most parents make because it seems to settle their kids down.  So, the logic becomes if it settles him down, then it must be what he wants. 

The obvious problem with that thinking is that it makes you believe that all he needs is to eat, while he may be yearning for something else, such as a change or to be held.  The underlying problem is that as you keep doing this, he starts to develop bad habits.  For example:  He’ll feed more frequently, such as needing to be fed every hour.  He eats a smaller volume, such as drinking only 1 ounce while needing to eat 3 ounces in one sitting. 

This habit turns into a vicious cycle in which the baby is in full control of the situation and the parents are exhausted because they are dealing with a restless baby who needs to be tended to every hour.

My wife and I have read a couple of books prior to birth, as well as took a class, and that really prepared us for what to expect and how to handle each situation.  In this process of becoming parents we have applied the same rationale of reading the literature out there and developing a mindset and philosophy in raising our son, and developing an overarching philosophy for our household. 
While there are many books out there, I really found Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano to be a nice resource.  Instead of rehashing all the points, I’m going to share the pieces that I find to be important for parents that are raising a child under six weeks old.
1)     Crying does no long term physical or emotional damage.
a.     So, if you need a moment to use the restroom or to eat something, put him or her down and do what you need to do.  A fully functional you is better for yourself and for the baby.
2)      Unless if your child has a weight issue, feed him/her no earlier than every two and a half hours and no later than three hours.
a.     Even if the baby is fussy or crying, and you know that he is well fed from the prior feeding, has been changed, and you are tending to him/her.  Then try to distract him or try to soothe him until the time has been reached. 
                                               i.     The benefits of him learning to be on your schedule and being in a structured environment is a lesson in patience and delayed gratification.  In addition, it teaches you and him how to soothe him when he is upset.
3)     At six weeks, if the doctor says he is at a healthy weight and is thriving, then put him in his own room or space.
a.     Up until this point you probably have the baby in the room like we do.  Circle on the calendar the day you are going to move him/her out.  This will be challenging because there is comfort in knowing you can hear him breathe or make noises while you try to rest, but this is an essential step in getting him on a sleep schedule. 
 When implementing the two and half to three-hour timeline you may face challenges along the way.  Our son will start being fussy as we approach two hours, but it is important to stay firm.  We do tummy time with him, walk around the apartment and neighborhood, lay him on his back and let him grab my fingers and lift him up a little bit.  It is important to distract him with activities as well as soothing strategies.  It doesn’t always work, but stay confident that you are doing the right thing and in time he will adapt. 

Thanks for reading and I’ll put up a follow-up post shortly as we move into the next phase.  If you have questions or comments please reach out or write on the board, and please subscribe for future posts!!  Thanks again!!


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