Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Baby Whisperer's "Four S" Pre-nap Routine: What it Looks Like for Me

(Sleeping Lila, 5 Months Old)

Have you heard of the "Baby Whisperer"? Before I had my third baby, I had heard nary a whisper of her. But when the term "Baby Whisperer" started popping up on my two favorite baby sleep blogs, I knew I needed to find out who this Baby Whisperer was and to read her book so I could understand her full method. The Baby Whisperer is a woman named Tracy Hogg who knows a lot about baby sleep. (You can find her two books here and here.) I really liked both books but, honestly, they are a little bit wordy, so I will summarize a few of my favorite Baby Whisperer methods in the next few posts.

One of the best things I got from the Baby Whisperer was the Four S pre-nap routine. I know that everyone has a different pre-nap routine that they swear by, but this routine is a great general routine that could be personalized by pretty much anyone. Here are the basics:

1. Set the Stage: Setting the stage essentially means giving baby cues that bedtime or nap time is coming. If you use the same cues every time, baby will associate those cues with nap time and when those cues come will start preparing to sleep and won't be surprised to find herself in her crib. How do I set the stage? I'm glad you asked. I take Lila into her room, turn on her noise maker, and turn off the light. Boom. Stage set.

2. Swaddle: Lila girl loves her swaddle. After the stage is set, I swaddle her tightly. My current favorite swaddler is the SwaddleMe. The SwaddleMe is perfect for summer because it's so lightweight, and Lila generally can't unwrap herself super quickly, enabling her to fall asleep more easily.

3. Sit: This step was confusing to me when I read a summary of the step on a sleep blog. At first, I thought Hogg meant to have the baby sit on your lap and just kind of hang out--which seemed weird. After reading the books and other sleep blogs, though, I realized that "sitting" was referring to me. I sit in my rocking chair with Lila and pat her back. I usually get a burp out of her, which is good because I know gas won't bother her as much during her nap. Some babies like to be held upright during this step (like you are burping them up at your shoulder), but Lila likes to be held cradle-style. You don't want to rock, bounce, or sway with your baby during this step--which is super counter-intuitive, I know. The idea is for them to relax, not to fall asleep. And bouncing/rocking can actually overstimulate a baby--which is also counter-intuitive, right? Hogg suggests sitting for up to 10-15 minutes, until baby is very relaxed. Honestly, now that we've been doing the Four S routine for a while, Lila and I usually only sit for about 2-5 minutes before she is starting to fall asleep.

4. Shush-pat: Hogg's shush-pat method is one key she talks about repeatedly. The idea is that your baby can only focus on two things at a time; so if you are shushing (pretty loudly) and patting firmly, your baby doesn't have enough focus left to think about crying. However, I have found that shush-pat is not ideal for us. After several days of shush-patting (and nearly passing out because I was so out of breath from all the shushing), I realized that for Lila, at least, shush-patting was actually winding her up more and making her cry harder. So I pat her during step three (sit), then I put her in her bed. I leave my hand on her chest for 30 seconds or so, then I let the noise maker do the shushing for me. She is usually asleep in about five minutes. Some babies love the shush-pat, and will need to be patted after put in bed--experiment and see what works for you!

So there you have it: my version of the Four S routine. This routine takes about 5-10 minutes and has worked wonders for me--I hope it helps you, too! I started using this routine when Lila was about one month old and by two-and-a-half months she was falling asleep in her bed by herself within 5-10 minutes of putting her down! Please feel free to leave questions in the comment section below.