Word is out that parents in Brazil (and many other countries) nurture their baby to sleep AND get a good night's rest. I have spoken to more than one Brazilian mother who finds letting your baby fuss to sleep heartless. Heartless? We love our children!
The technique to get your baby to sleep better at night depends a lot on baby temperament, and how much sleep deprivation you can tolerate. Here are some practical ways to get your baby on his way to a good night's sleep.
Get a routine. Brazilian mothers may or may not keep a consistent routine, with each day similar to the one before. You may be a “fly by the seat of your pants” person, and that’s okay. Babies enjoy some spontaneity, too. A few simple activities during the day make a routine. For example, a relaxing bath prior to bedtime. You may choose to sing to your baby or play soft music in the evening. As your baby gets older, you can add reading a book to your routine. Babies (and older children) are more relaxed when they have an element of predictability in their lives.
Set up a comfortable sleep environment. Your baby's bed should consist of only a mattress and a sheet. This sleep environment may not sound too cozy, but you can dress your baby in warm clothing so he doesn’t feel cold. However, avoid bundling him up when the environment is warm. If he appears uncomfortable, remove some of his clothing.
In the first three months of life, you can use a sleep sack or wearable blanket instead of traditional blankets. Made to replace the risk of using blankets (which may easily be kicked on the face and cause suffocation), sleep sacks or wearable blankets ensure your baby won’t maneuver the blanket onto his face.
If a baby is too cold or too hot, he will let you know. Make your baby more comfortable by having ventilation around his face so he can breathe easily and has room to stretch.
Keep the night sleep area calm. To make your baby’s night environment soothing, use minimal lighting in the room so you can see your baby, yet it’s comfortable for him to sleep. If you are tending to him, such as changing his diaper, avoid over stimulating him with too much movement. If you speak to your baby at night, keep your voice soothing and low. In time, the flip-flop of day and night sleep patterns will subside, as long as his nighttime environment is calm and non-stimulating.
If your baby wakes up, be a boring parent. If your baby wakes up don't give extra attention. Just tend to her and be done with it. If she seems tired and wanting some affection, gently pat her back to let her know you are there. Try not to pick her up unless necessary, as with a feed. Two night time words to remember at night – brief and boring.
Rock your baby to sleep–or not? There are two schools of thought on rocking your baby to sleep. One says to allow your baby to settle on his own, and the other says to rock until he sleeps. In Germany, fathers tend to rock babies more than mothers do. You may also consider a combination of both techniques.
Many mothers allow their babies to get to sleep without a lot of rocking. They simply allow their baby to settle himself. If you choose not to rock or hold him to sleep, be sure he gets some hands-on nurturing when you see he’s getting tired. Babies find your hands soothing when you touch them before they fall asleep.
The best way to get your baby to sleep is to place him in the crib or bassinet when he’s tired. Let him fuss a bit, then gently place your hand on his belly to help him sleep. However, any out-and-out crying should get your attention. At this early stage in life, if he cries, it’s extremely important to pick him up, as he’s learning to trust you. He may become more agitated and cry more if he is not held and cuddled when he’s distressed.
Do you want to rock your baby to sleep? Then please, do! Your baby will love being held and rocked to sleep. Babies have been rocked to sleep for thousands of years because it nurtures them and makes them feel loved.
For early sleep training, I suggest rocking and holding your baby until he is drowsy, then putting him down and letting him settle himself to sleep. Be attentive. Train him this way, especially at night, so he can learn to settle himself—a technique that will take him a long way toward learning to sleep comfortably as he grows.
(Source, German baby rocking: Lamb, M.E., The Father's Role: Cross Cultural Perspectives, 1987, p.104.)