First let’s start with talking about what makes a sleep coaching method “gentle”. At the heart of The Shuffle, and other gentle methods are the fact that you are able to stay with your child and respond with empathy, comfort and love through both physical and verbal reassurance.
This consistent parental support is slowly reduced as your baby learns independent sleep skills. While there may be some crying, you should respond to your child and help soothe them.
You will find two methods of sleep coaching below that have been modified because of your baby’s age and development. This does not mean that your baby is ready for sleep coaching, so if you get to night 4 or 5 and have not seen any improvements, we suggest that you stop and try again in a week or so.
The Sleep Lady Shuffle, Modified for Children Under 6 Months
This is a very gentle and gradual type of sleep coaching. If you choose to use this Modified Shuffle, please know that it’s okay, and expected that you will be standing upright, leaning over the crib, patting, jiggling, loudly shushing, and soothing your baby quite a bit, at least at first.
- Place your baby down in their bed drowsy, but awake at bedtime after a great day of naps any way you can get them
- Stay close by (even standing next to the crib) and comfort with touch and verbal reassurance to sleep. (patting, gently rocking, jiggling, verbal reassurance or whatever works for you and your baby).
- The goal is to help your baby fall asleep in their bed even if that means you have your entire upper body in the crib with them.
- You will gradually reduce your support every night so you don’t get stuck there too long
- Gradually reduce your physical reassurance and use more verbal reassurance over the first 3 nights.
- As you move away from your baby’s bed, reduce the amount or volume of verbal reassurance so that your baby can learn to sleep without it.
While sleep coaching, we suggest that you start with bedtime. When you respond to night wakings, if it’s a feeding time them feed and if not offer reassurance back to sleep.
Nights 1-3: Stand/sit next to bed, patting/touching, loudly shushing to sleep, lots of touching and verbal support. Pick up your baby and soothe if they become distraught.
Nights 4-6: Move to a chair a bit away from your baby’s bed. Use patting/touch to calm if your baby fusses, shushing to sleep. Pick up your baby and soothe if they become distraught.
Nights 7-9: Move your chair close to the door. At this point, there should be less intervention, though you should still provide physical and verbal reassurance if your baby fusses, then return to your chair. Pick up your baby and soothe if they become distraught.
By night 10, often parents are able to do a cribside check if need be and then leave rather quickly. If you feel that your baby needs longer, it’s okay to move at a slower pace and move out of the room more gradually.
The Kinder Method
This method works well for very alert babies, as well as those that seem to need “alone” time to settle down for bed.
If you find that your baby is more agitated with you near the crib, you can try laying on the floor next to their bed, and moving out of the room at a quicker pace. The type of support that you offer at bedtime should also be offered for all night wakings that are not a feeding time.
Night 1: key words, shushing and patting or touch does Andrea explain what a key word is? If not I will email her for this. I don’t want to assume that people know what this means.
Night 2: Key words and shushing
Night 3: Shushing only
Night 4: wait 2 minutes then shush to sleep
Night 5: wait 5 minutes then shush to sleep
Gradually continue to increase the wait time up to 10 minutes. By this time many babies will be able to settle themselves before the 10-minute mark.
Remember, your baby may not be ready for sleep coaching, and that’s okay. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting to coach, realizing it isn’t working and abandoning ship, at least for now.
If you feel like you need more support, or would like to move through sleep coaching once your baby is older, take advantage of the discounted price for Gentle Sleep Solutions, which will help you coach your baby from 6 months to 6 years. Or set up a consultation thru the Help Center.