Q&A: How can I help my baby sleep on her own?
My now 5-month-old baby girl has been sleeping through the night since she was 7 weeks old. Just until recently, I was even able to put her down fully awake for naps and for the night. But, last week, she got the Norwalk virus and was sick for a few days (she's still not 100-percent better). Now, she wakes up at night, wanting her soother, and there's no way I can put her down unless she's completely asleep in my arms. When she cries in her crib, I give her her soother, but it only takes her about 10 seconds to pull it out herself and then she cries to have it back.
She cries for 45 minutes (even though I go in every few minutes to reassure her) and then, will hiccup so loudly that there's no way she can get to sleep unless I rock her.
I've been trying the "5-10-15" method, but worry that she is too young for me to let her cry. Should I give her more time considering she was so sick?
Should I get rid of the soother right away or wait a bit?
You are in a common situation—babies who once slept beautifully through the night, then get a minor illness, often lose their night routine. The issue has to do with sleep associations—those people and objects that help babies complete the transition between sleepy/awake and asleep. You were there when she was ill (and rightly so) but now she’s come to expect your presence. All infants awaken a few times during the night and ideally know how to get themselves back to sleep without relying on something or someone else.
You mention the “5-10-15″ method (representing the minutes allowing a baby to cry—a method first espoused by Richard Ferber, MD, of Boston’s Children’s Hospital). This practice is meant for children six months and older, and usually works in about one week; but the temperament of the child and consistency of how it is applied will determine how much time it takes. I would recommend continuing to try a gentle version of this method, as soon as she is back to feeling 100 percent. Use the time intervals (of waiting before verbally reassuring her) that you and your spouse are comfortable with. Even the occasional 45 minutes of crying isn’t “harmful.” A pacifier isn’t the best transitional object because it does get separated from the baby so easily, but you can perhaps substitute another object, like a safe blanket.