Recently a mom on our Facebook page asked about sleep training her high need 5 month old son. She wrote:
We have a [high need] 5mth old. He has needed to be bounced to sleep, but has now gotten to heavy for me to do so at 19lbs…it’s not working anymore for either of us! I would like to try sleep training and have read Ferber, Karp, Weissbluth, Sears and Pantley. BUT I don’t know which method to try! I am nervous that if I do let him CIO (cry it out) he will never stop crying and it may make things worse in the end. He already hates sleeping. What kind of experiences have other mamas had with sleeping training a high need baby? Have you tried CIO? Did it work for your baby? What age did you try?
This brought me back to Sammy’s early days when he would sleep in 45-90 minute stretches, and wake up screaming. We tried everything we could think of, but he resisted falling asleep and seemed unable to stay asleep.
We tried swaddling him, rocking him in his car seat, driving around in the wee hours of the night, the swing, white noise, co-sleeping…you name it, we tried it.
With our first child, we were so concerned about starting bad sleep habits (heaven forbid our 3 month old old not be able to self-soothe), but with Sammy we were willing to do whatever it took to get him to sleep.
If you have a high need baby, you’ve probably already figured this one out: Most of the sleep advice you’ll read in books seems more realistic for easy to average temperament babies.
Some of the traits that make high need babies more resistant to sleep training include:
If you’ve discovered certain strategies for helping your high need baby fall asleep – nursing, baby wearing, stroller, etc. – don’t let anyone tell you it’s ‘not ok’! Babies are little for such a short time, and there will always be time later to help your baby learn to self-soothe.
If, however, your usual strategies aren’t working, and you’re unable to help your baby get the sleep he or she needs, there are ways you can help your high need baby sleep (and it doesn’t have to mean using cry it out!). You should expect that it will take a little longer and be a little harder than with ‘easy’ babies, but sometimes, we do what we have to do.
If you’re wondering what options are available to you, you might be interested in my eBook Sleep Training and High Need Babies. I tried to answer all the questions I get from parents every day about sleep training/learning, including:
Stop Crying, Calm Down, and Other Things We Tell Our High Need Kids
How to Distract a High Need Baby or Toddler
How to Thrive with a High Need Child
5 Ways To Keep a High Need Baby or Toddler Entertained
Why I Now Recommend the Graco DreamGlider Swing & Sleeper