How to Teach Your Newborn to Sleep With the Shush-Pat Method

I mentioned the shush-pat method in a previous sleep training post.  Today, I'm going to go a lot more in depth in the topic.

Before That, Check Out Dodow! An Amazing Sleeping Aid for Kids…

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How to Teach Your Newborn to Sleep With the Shush-Pat Method

You're going to learn:

  • What Shush-Pat IS
  • WHY we do it
  • WHEN to do it
  • HOW to do it
  • Why it works

What is Shush-Pat

Shush-Pat is an important sleep tool in any parent's toolbox.  It's one necessary to form proper sleeping habits in your children.  Shush/Pat is a method used to calm and reassure your baby when she needs a little extra help drifting off for a proper nap.

But what IS Shush-Pat??

Specifically?  Shush-pat is a physical intervention to settle a baby.

And it's exactly as it sounds.  You shush and pat your baby to help her fall asleep.

Why we shush-pat

Babies take about 20 minutes to go through the three stages of sleep

  • The Window the point at which you notice his sleep cues and set the scene (4 S Ritual)
  • The Zone when he gets a glazed look in his eye
  • The Letting Go he starts to nod off

The last one is the trickiest.  It's critical for you to know your baby.  If he's the type who jolts into sleep rather fitfully and has trouble settling on his own, he needs the extra encouragement to calm down.  He needs the shush-pat.

The information presented in this sleep training series is derived from the works of Tracy Hogg, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

By giving a form of physical touch and voice, you're reassuring your baby and letting him know you are there.  Your presence is felt.

Catch up on the series with these posts:

  • Week 1 (Intro to Sleep Training + 5 Baby Personalities), 
  • Week 2 (How to Sleep Train the EASY Way), and
  • Week 3 (Accidental Parenting) now. 

But why is shush-pat better than any other method?

It saves you from the future battle of accidental parenting.  By guiding your child into sleep, rather than forcing him to sleep, you are taking the time to teach him to go to sleep on his own.  A skill that's value is immeasurable.

He will learn to put himself back to sleep when he wakes in the night, or early from a nap.  Disturbances won't phase him if he can learn to go back to sleep.

You will know your baby is in a deep enough sleep to when you can lift his or her arm and drop it and it's like dead weight and the baby stays asleep.

Comfort your infant get your baby sleeping on her own with this gentle shush pat method hampersandhiccups

When to do shush-pat

You need to do shush-pat at a few key points in your baby's life

  • When she is just learning to go to sleep on her own (ie. sleep training)
  • When you're fixing an accidental parenting mistake (breaking bad habits)
  • In times of unrest, illness or routine malfunction (teething, flu, vacation return)

General rule: when baby is having trouble settling.  Don't just let her fuss until she works herself up into a fit of frustration.  Your nerves will thank you, trust me.

But there's a catch

You cannot shush-pat ALL babies.  Babies over 6 months will rarely respond to shush-pat.  Instead, they'll become more frustrated and angry.  Under 3 months, most babies will respond positively.  Older babies need intervention by the Pick Up, Put Down Method.

How to Shush-Pat

Yes, there's a specific way, although it's probably what you would expect.

  1. Keeping baby in the crib (e.g., SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper), gently move him to his side.  With one hand on his chest (use a wedge or rolled up towel to keep him from rolling to his tummy), firmly and rhythmically pat the center of his back in a steady motion (like a clock).
  2. Simultaneously lean in and loudly shush past his ear.  Elongate the shhhhh to sound like a faucet, not a train.

If he is not settling or is crying too much to be responsive, pick him up and use the same technique with him on your shoulder.  Do not rock or jiggle.  Just shush/pat.  Once you feel him start to relax and his breathing becomes deeper, lay him in his crib and repeat steps 1 + 2 as necessary.

It may be necessary to put your hand over (not on) his eyes to block out visual stimulation if the room is not dark enough.

3. Continue for 7-10 minutes after baby is deeply asleep.  Once breathing slows and becomes more shallow, baby relaxes and eyes stop moving side to side, and you're sure her focus is totally on what you're doing, you can gradually slow down the patting.  Make your “shushing” quieter and eventually stop.

4. Stay in the room until you are 110%+ sure that your baby is asleep for good.

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Having the right baby crib is crucial when performing this method. Check out our top recommendations below:

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DO NOT leave too soon.

If you leave before baby is in a deep sleep, when her little eyes pop back open and there's nobody there, she will be very upset.  And you'll have to go back into her room.  This is WAY more frustrating than just staying for as long as it takes in the first place.

Remember, it takes a baby 20 minutes for a baby to go through the 3 sleep stages and enter a deep sleep.  When you leave too soon, and have to return, you'll have to start the entire process over again.

Oh, and if you have a Touchy, Spirited, or Grumpy baby?  Expect to stay a bit longer than the other types of baby personalities.

Also, by staying longer and watching your little angel sleep, you're going to learn more about her.  You'll get to know how long she takes to go to sleep, what her sleep cues are, what she likes to do to soother herself, etc.  It's something no book can tell you.

5. Continue until baby is able to go to sleep on her own.  Typically 5-7 days.

Why Shush-Pat Method works

As long as you convey confidence to your baby, letting him know that you're in charge and you know what you're doing (and do it properly), shush-pat will work.

The secret?  Young babies can't hold 3 thoughts in their heads at the same time.  By patting the back and shushing in her ear, she cannot focus on the crying and will eventually stop.  You're helping her to calm down by getting her to focus on something else.

At the same time, you're teaching her that her bed is a place for sleep.  It's okay to fall asleep.  It doesn't have to be frightening.  And if she needs help?  Well, you're right there to get her through the 3 stages.

  • See Week 1, Into + 5 Different Baby Personalities, here
  • See Week 2, Sleep Training the EASY Way, here
  • See Week 3, Accidental Parenting, here
  • See Week 5, Pick Up/Put Down, here
  • See Week 6, Wake to Sleep, here

If you want a proven method (non DIY), then check out our partner below:

Is Your Baby Not Sleeping Through the Night? 

While you can try all the DIY methods in the world, at the end of the day, you may need help. Not having your baby sleep can deprive you of your sleep causing anxiety, and financial and relationship stress.

We partnered with Dodow. Dodow is a sleep aid device that sits on your nightstand and slowly projects a glow onto your ceiling. Focusing on the light helps clear your mind, slows your breathing and relaxes your body so you can quickly, peacefully drift off into a deep, restful sleep. It's perfect for kids since they love to focus on specific things! I have multiple for my kids, and I use it as well to have a good night sleep.

Make sure to try the Dodow. I highly recommend it.

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What do you do to help your baby get to sleep?  Are you using a form of accidental parenting and setting him up for a sleep disorder?

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