Dad Blog: The 2 minute method for getting your newborn to sleep
It’s no secret that I struggled with the first 4 weeks of parenthood. Thankfully this has all changed and I’m feeling a lot stronger connection with little Oscar now. However, there are some learnings that I made during the first 4 weeks that I think are valuable: namely, the how do I get this upset child to sleep I think I’m going insane I swear if it keeps screaming I’m going to put my head in the toaster oh lord this isn’t fair oh please my ears feeling.
Learning how to succesfully put Oscar to sleep was the first parenting achievement I truly felt proud of. Early on I didn’t feel like I had many wins, but my bedtime routine worked so well that my wife adopted it too, and we’re still practicing it now at 8 weeks old. So here it is: The two minute method for getting your newborn to sleep!
The 2 minute method is quite flexible but before I get into the details there are a few points that were so useful I’m going to call them strict requirements.
The first is swaddling. When you’re in the hospital the nurses will probably wrap your child up tightly in a colourful blanket - AKA a swaddle. This isn’t just a hospital thing - learning to swaddle your child is extremely helpful in keeping them calm. I read a fantastic book called Cribsheet . For sceptical folks like myself it’s a great resource for discovering which parenting practices are backed by science and which are just old wives tales. Long story short is that swaddling is science-approved and it works. If you can’t get the hang of swaddling your child there are little sleeping bags you can buy too. Either way your baby will look adorable in them and if you’re anything like us you’ll enjoy referring to them as a little burrito. 😍
The second requirement is white noise. I’m not sure if this is a strict requirement but it’s definitely a strong recommendation. There are all sorts of fancy gadgets you can buy here but none of them are really necessary. We had a spare google home lying around so we used it to play white noise playlists from Spotify. But you could easily just use your phone or a radio. We found that the white noise helps to drown out the sounds of walking to the bathroom or the dogs paws tapping on our wooden floor. As a bonus, I also find it quite relaxing myself!
Now, onto the 2 minute method.
First you need to write a list of things that you can do to calm your baby. For us, this list includes:
- Walking up and down the hallway
- Swaying on the spot
- Big rocks in the bassinet
- Small rocks in the bassinet
- Rubbing their back
- Using the rocking chair
Your list might be longer or shorter and might have other things that work for you. Great.
The way that this method works is that when you’re putting your baby to sleep you need to commit to doing one of the things on your list for 2 minutes.
If your baby still has their eyes open or is grumbling then you’ll need to keep going. Choose another thing on the list and do it for 2 minutes.
I’m being strict on the 2-minute thing here because it’s important that you literally watch the clock. I’ve learned that there is a very real time warping phenomenon that occurs when it’s 3am in the morning and you’ve been bobbing up and down for several hours. What feels like 2 minutes might only be 30 seconds. So, watch the clock and be disciplined. 2 minutes is both a long time but not very long at all - you’ll understand what I mean when you’re in the thick of it. 🥲
If, for the entire 2-minute cycle, your baby has been calm you can move to the next step: putting them down. This is the part where you do the reverse skill tester manouvre - careful, careful, gentle, gentle. After a successful bassinet landing in you might need to rock the bassinet for another few rounds of 2 minutes before they truly settle. This is quite common for Oscar.
Finally, once you think your baby is asleep, do one more 2-minute cycle where you simply sit quietly and watch them. I suggest this mostly for your own sanity. It’s tempting to put them down and walk away optimistically, but somehow this makes it much worse when your hear their grumbles from another room. Sit the last 2 mintues just to make really sure that they’re asleep and then enjoy some quiet time.
Did it work? Nice one Dad.
A typical night for us might look like this:
- 2 minutes of walking up and down the hallway;
- He’s still looking around so another 2 minutes of walking up and down the hallway;
- Ok, he’s had his eyes closed for the whole 2 minutes so now I’ll sway on the spot for 2 minutes;
- Uh oh, big grumbles. Back to walking up and down the hallway for 2 minutes;
- Ok, he’s calm again. Time to put him down;
- 2 minutes of gentle rocking in the bassinet;
- 2 minutes of quietly sitting by him;
Success! He’s asleep!
It’s a bit of a dance but it works. I’m sure there are other methods out there but this one has worked for us. I hope it helps you too.