How do people get a 6-month-old to soothe without picking them up? Has this actually ever worked for anyone? We are on baby #2 and it seems like a myth?
Long Form Version
We are on baby #2 and have hit an issue that I feel like is reasonably common: the kid can almost never soothe himself to sleep in a crib, regardless of how drowsy he is. He's breastfed, no co-sleeping, consistent night time routine (feed, wash, quick-book+dim lights, crib, music, white noise+dark).
Unfortunately, he's a negative sleep trajectory. After being relatively normal to about 4 months (naps ~45-1.5h, night: 3h then 1.5h after), he had a sleep regression and blew up his naps to 45m and first night cycle to 1.5h+a mix of 45m. He returned to the original better night sleep for almost a week (3h+1.5h blocks). He is now on 45m blocks... for all naps and in the night. For those in the back row, that means 10-15 wake ups each night, depending on how quickly he soothes back down. Even tag-teaming, this is a WW1 style trench warfare existence.
His typical pattern is to wake up not immediately startled/crying but with an escalating grunting and barking vocalization that eventually turns into uncontrollable crying if you wait long enough (5-10 minutes). We're taking a full court press on this issue to knock out possible physical causes (e.g., reflux meds, cutting out dairy, tried some tylenol at times where physical discomfort seemed possible). Related to this is an issue: the kid just can't be comforted without picking him up and holding/bouncing him (depending on where in his waking cycle you catch him).
Spread across hundreds of pieces of literature is this concept of "Oh, just put your baby down drowsy but awake! If they get upset, soothe them in place!" With no apparent backup plan when they are not soothable without holding them. Methods tried so far, with the level of success noted from "some" :-\ to "makes things worse" :-(
- Shushing :-\
- Singing lullabies :-(
- Physical Pressure:
- Patting :-(
- "Holding" with hands on sides but without lifting out of the crib :-\
- Vibrating hands gently on the sides :-(
- "Rocking" by bouncing baby gently in place without removing from crib :-\
- Finger :-\
- Baby hand :-\
- Pacifier N/A (couldn't keep it in well enough, preferred his hand)
- (Feeding): We haven't fiddled with this much, but the kid is chunky and eats great. Only about ~2 wake ups seem to have much hunger cues, and we just feed him then.
- Props (haven't tried much on this):
- Stuffed animal N/A (haven't tried much due to choking/smothering risk)
- Tube socks filled w/ warm rice/grain N/A (considered, but he is in a Merlin suit so unclear if it would give much pressure/comfort)
We have found only a handful of wins where the baby falls back asleep through some combination of these methods. Ones with mixed results typically cause some temporary soothing, but the baby staying up so long they are no longer tired and then there's a 40 minute waking cycle or otherwise need serious bouncing/nursing to settle. Given that it has only worked maybe 3 times ever, the "critical failure rate" is about 5-10 times more likely than the success rate.
Worse, the successes don't mean the baby sleeps any longer. We recently had our first "put baby down in crib, leave room, it falls asleep." They then woke up 40 minutes later, and every 40 minutes thereafter until 4 AM (where a 1.5h double-cycle happened by pure luck).
Breaking down this question into actionable bits:
- Additional Methods: Anybody has soothing methods not on the above list?
- Baby-Gone-Good Stories: Is there anybody who had a baby that consistently escalated in a crib, but then got better at it (in the 6 month area)?
- Wins?: Was it even useful to help a baby soothe with less intervention? This seems to be a common wisdom, yet are not seeing that less assistance in sleeping results in the baby stringing more cycles together.