Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a new parent quite like a baby that won’t stop crying. While it is never easy to hear your baby cry, three simple steps can be taken to help assess the cry and figure out what baby needs and how to address that need.
STEP 1: STOP & LISTEN
STOP what you are doing and listen for the type of cry for 5-15 minutes (you may want to set a kitchen timer because 5 minutes of crying can feel like 5 hours when it is your little one). HOW is he/she crying? Is it just whimpering? Is he/she crying on and off? Is the crying hard or is there screaming the entire time?
STEP 2: THINK & ASSESS
THINK about and ASSESS your baby’s routine. Is it the middle of a nap time? At the end of nap time and it is time to feed? Is the cry a cry of sleepiness, anger, frustration, or pain? Knowing where baby is in his or her routine helps identify what needs baby might be trying to communicate.
STEP 3: ACTION or NO ACTION
Action or no action means after following the above steps, you will decide what you should do. If, for instance, your baby has been crying off and on or whimpering for 10-15 minutes and this is the middle of nap time, you may choose to just let him work it out on his own. Baby may just be going through a light sleep phase and any intervention on your part would discourage resettling on his/her own. On the other hand, if there has been hard crying for 15 minutes and your baby has been characterized by sleeping through nap time, you will want to go to investigate.
- Is there a foot caught in a slat?
- Does baby need to burp?
- If baby is not in pain and has just been worked up into a frenzy, try to calm him/her down by standing at the door of the room and speaking softly.
- If baby calms down, leave the room and listen for another 5-15 minutes. If baby doesn’t calm down, go to the side of the crib and again, speak in a soothing tone.
- If that doesn’t work, try rubbing or patting the baby to calm him/her.
- If that doesn’t work, pick baby up and calm him/her down but make sure baby is still awake when you put him/her back down.
Baby will either settle down and go to sleep or scream all the harder to let you know he/she is mad.
If baby starts screaming the minute you set him/her down, leave the room and listen again for 5-15 minutes, repeating the process. If baby is still crying after those second 15 minutes, get baby up (it will be pretty close to feeding time anyway at that point) and try again during the next nap period.
REMEMBER YOUR GOALS – sleep is necessary for optimal growth and development. It is to our baby’s, and our own benefit, to obtain good sleep habits. Knowing this is the end goal helps parents navigate through the challenging, emotional moments when you just want the crying to stop.
Sleep training is a PROCESS and it does take time for baby to gain good sleeping skills. Your persistence will be rewarded with a 6 month old who will go down easily for 2 naps a day, as well as sleep 10-12 hours at night.