This is the third in a series of blog posts based on Pamela Druckerman’s “Bébé Day by Day.” The following excerpts are taken directly from Chapter 3:
Here’s a French paradox: French babies often sleep through the night by three or four months old, or even sooner. Yet their parents don’t make them “cry it out” for hours on end.
18. Understand the science of sleep: The key to sleeping for longer stretches is for the baby to learn how to connect his sleep cycles on his own. He needs to be able to wake up after one cycle then plunge into the next one without anyone else having to get out of bed. Connecting sleep cycles is a skill. A few lucky babies are born with it. Most have to practice before they master it.
19. Babies are noisy sleepers: Infants make a lot of noise when they sleep. This does not mean they are awake. If you instantly race in to their rooms or pick them up each time they make a peep, you will sometimes wake them up.
20. Do “The Pause”: From the time the baby is a few weeks old, pause a bit when he cries at night. You are waiting to see if, your baby will have a breakthrough moment and plunge into the next sleep on his own, without anyone’s help. If you immediately rush in and pick him up, he won’t have a chance to develop this skill. Rushing in may make you feel like a devoted and sacrificial parent. But in effect you’re treating your baby like a helpless blob who is not ready to learn and grow. You needn’t pause very long. Some French parents wait five minutes or so.
21. Get baby in the mood to sleep: Keep the baby near daylight during the day, even when he’s napping. Signal to him that the big nighttime sleep is approaching by giving him a bath, changing him into pajamas, singing him a lullaby, and actually saying “good night.” Once he’s calm and relaxed but preferably still awake, put him to bed in a dark room at night. You want to send him off to sleep feeling secure enough that he can separate from you for a little while, and still be okay.
23. Sleeping well is better for the baby: French parents don’t sleep-teach babies just for their own convenience. They also believe that sleeping well is in a child’s best interest. Research backs them up: a child who sleeps poorly can become hyperactive and irritable, have trouble learning and remembering things, and have more accidents. And sleep contains an important symbolic lesson for babies: learning to sleep is part of learning to be part of the family.
24. Don’t expect any of this to work immediately: But stick with it and stay confident that your baby will, as the French say, “do his nights.” Convey this confidence to your baby (it helps!).
25. If you miss the window for the pause, let baby cry it out: The gentle sleep-teaching method of The Pause works best in the baby’s first four months. When parents miss this window, French experts often suggest doing some form of crying it out.
*Due to length, I trimmed down each point and excluded some points entirely.