When you’re emerging from those bleary newborn days, many parents crave a bit of normality. And not having to rock a baby to sleep every night, and then every time they wake in the night, can seem like the holy grail of parenting.
But many babies need to be taught how to get themselves to sleep, they might be reliant on you to help them get to sleep. This can feel like a huge mountain to climb, but it can be done in baby steps.
The shush, pat method we’ll look at today is a great way to transition into self settling. Parenting consultant and former midwife Rachel Fitz-Desorgher talks us through how this method works.
The shush, pat method is practical and easy to follow for parents who need some help getting their baby to sleep. It is similar to the ‘camping out’ method, but there is more engagement throughout. Here is a step-by-step guide.
1) Put your baby into their cot and leave the room with an air that says, ‘You’re okay. I’m not in the slightest doubt that you can nail this getting off to sleep palaver!’
2) As soon as your baby cries (not a grumbling, annoyed ‘Excuse me! Where the heck do you think you’ve gone?’ protest, but an upset cry), go into the room and pick your baby up. Pat your baby’s back and simply say ‘Sshh, sshh, sshh’ until they ‘lighten’ in your arms. The purpose is to reassure and prevent prolonged upset, not to get your baby to sleep. As soon as they settle, put them back in their cot.
3) The second they start crying again (proper upset crying, not annoyed protesting), repeat the process.
4) Repeat the process whenever they wake up during the night.
The number of visits to soothe should become fewer and fewer until your baby can be put down and will lie awake and able to get themselves off to sleep without any ‘shushing and patting’.
This is considered a ‘no cry’ method and babies are reassured that they have a parent available at any time to soothe them if it all gets a bit much. This suits both parents who cannot tolerate the idea of their baby being upset and those babies who do not need complete peace and quiet to get off to sleep.
As with ‘camping out’, some babies get progressively more and more riled at having a parent available but not doing very much. Parents complain that their baby starts to cry before they have even reached the mattress and so they may spend the entire first night stood patting and shushing. If your baby is energised and disturbed by the slightest stimulation, this approach may not work at all.
Remember: Only use this strategy if you and your partner feel it is right for your household.
If this method doesn’t work for you, there are other strategies you can try such as camping out and controlled crying.