Gone are the newborn days of rocking, or bounding around like a jack-in-the-box to send your baby to sleep. After the initial newborn phase, many parents feel ready to help their baby learn how to fall asleep on their own. It can feel like a big jump, but there are a few methods you can try. Today, we’ll look at one: camping out.
Parenting consultant and former midwife Rachel Fitz-Desorgher talks us through the camping out method:
The camping out method is a gradual strategy that teaches your baby to settle themselves by reassuring them that you are close by. Here is a step by step guide.
1) Put your baby into their cot and sit at the edge of the bed. Quietly stroke them till they fall asleep and then you leave the room.
2) When your baby can manage this step, remove the stroking and simply sit and read until they’re asleep. Then, leave the room.
3) When this step is successful, move the chair a couple of feet and sit and read until your baby falls asleep
4) Gradually move the chair further and further away until it is outside the door and the job is done!
Every time your baby wakes overnight, repeat the process. If your baby is crying in step two onwards, you can quietly stroke and soothe them, but not off to sleep – just enough to calm them. If your baby is very upset, you can lift them up and sooth them, but not off to sleep. They should be gently popped back in their crib when they’re less upset. Eye contact and talking should be avoided.
The message given to the baby in this strategy is that everything is okay and this ‘getting off to sleep’ business is really rather dull and needs no great party tricks from a parent. This is called congruency and is very important whatever strategy you may choose. If your body language says ‘Nothing to fear here!’ they can switch off and calm down.
While some babies will be soothed by the presence of a quiet parent softly stroking them, just as many babies get completely hysterical and the parent finds it impossible not to get engaged and end up suckling or frantically rocking or doing all the other things that you know will get the baby off to sleep but were trying to cut out. Furthermore, many parents find that the process takes so long and they get so unbelievably tired that they ‘give in’ and declare the process a failure before a week is up.
Only use this strategy if you and your partner feel it is right for your household! Camping out works for some babies and parents, but not all babies are the same.
If camping out doesn’t work for you, there are other strategies you can try such as the shush, pat method and controlled crying.