**Before beginning pu/pd with your baby, it is essential that you read all of Chapter 6, "Pick Up/Put Down," of The BabyWhisper Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau. The information below merely hits the highlights of the pick up/put down method and should not replace reading the entire "Pick Up/Put Down" chapter.**
Now we’ll look at the basics of pu/pd and how it should be adapted according to the age of your baby. These are general guidelines and you should remember to listen to and follow your own child.
“When a child cries, you go into his room. You first try to comfort him with words and a gentle hand on his back. Up to 6 months, you can also do shush-pat; in older babies, the shush pat-especially the sound can actually disrupt sleep, so we just lay a hand on the child’s back instead to make our presence felt. If he doesn’t stop crying, then pick him up. But put him down the minute he stops crying and not a second later. Make sure you put him down completely, even if he cries as you lower him, when he is down if he continues to cry then pick him up again and repeat. You are comforting him, not trying to put him back to sleep. –that’s for him to do on his own. If he cries and arches his back (is really fighting you), though you put him down immediately. Never fight a crying child. But maintain contact by placing a firm hand on his back so that he knows you are there. Stay with him. Intervene with words as well “It’s just sleep time, darling. You’re only going to sleep”. (Taken from Baby Whisperer Solves all you Problems page 222) The tricky part is knowing when to lay him back down. If he is held to long or not long enough then it is harder for PU/PD to work. If you get to a point where you can't take it anymore and you LO just wont stop crying, then by all means leave the room for a few minutes and regain your bearings. While CIO and CC are discuraged, you wont do yourself or your LO any good if your an emotional mess. Just step out and calm yourself then try again.
To sum it up the basic procedure when you child cries is;
• Place your hand on their back or chest and say your key phrase in a low tone, eg. ‘it’s only sleep’ or ‘it’s sleepy time’. You always try in the crib first as this is the ultimate goal.
• If this doesn’t work you pick them up, say the phrase and as soon as they calm you put them down. If they start to cry on the way down, you still put them down.
• If they are still crying you pick them up again.
• If the child is truly fighting you, arching etc you don’t hold at all, you put them right down after you say the phrase and then pick them up again.
• You do this over and over until you see signs your baby is settling. Typically their cries will become weaker; they may look for their hands etc. They may also begin to mantra cry, you do not pick up on a mantra cry as they are attempting to settle themselves.
• When you see this settling behaviour you don’t pick them up anymore. Leave them in the crib, place your hand on them and say your phrase. Now you let go, stand back and see what happens.
• If they start up again, you start the whole process over beginning with attempting to soothe in the crib.
It is very important to adjust the basic procedure according to your baby’s age, as follows;
4 MONTHS OLD - you would follow the procedure above with the following adaptations;
• If they are swaddled and it become loose, you need to re swaddle.
• You only hold them a maximum of 5 minutes. If they don’t settle in 5 minutes you put them down and pick up again if they are still upset.
• In between each pu/pd you attempt to soothe with shush/pat in the crib.
• If the shush-pat doesn’t work you pick them up again, continuing to shush/pat in your arms if you wish.
• So, put them down the second they stop crying, start to settle or a maximum of 5 minutes.
4-6 MONTHS OLD - The process changes slightly when your baby is starting to get more mobile and has more strength. They will typically start to fight you when being held and they may throw their head back and/or arch their back, so the following adaptations are made;
• If the baby is burrowing their head into the mattress, turning their head side to side, getting up on their knees or flopping side to side you don’t pick them up right away or you will get kicked or your hair pulled. Instead you continue to talk and soothe in a low tone voice.
• When you do pick your baby up you only hold for a maximum of two or three minutes then put them all the way down even if still crying. You then pick up again and follow the same routine.
• At 4-6 months a baby tends to put up quite a physical struggle and the biggest mistake made is holding too long. Watch your baby’s cues, burrowing into your shoulder or arching their back is a sign they want to go back down EVEN if they are still crying. Holding them too long will reinforce “I cry I get picked up”. You can label what you are doing eg. “Let me pick you up”. “Let me put you down”.
6-8 MONTHS OLD - Pu/pd becomes more of a partnership at this age and it is key that you follow your baby’s pace and make the following adaptations to the basic procedure;
• You don’t pick them up as a matter of course but you offer them pick up. You hold your hands to your baby and say “let me pick you up” and you pick them up when they reach to you.
• You pick them up in a cradle position and say “It’s okay, we’re just going to sleep.”. Don’t rock or sway and don’t make eye contact.
• Put them down immediately after you say your key phrase.
• Once your baby starts to soothe you continue to soothe with words and a hand for presence if this helps your baby. Some babies may find this too disruptive so you take your baby’s lead.
8 MONTHS TO A YEAR - At this age you really don’t do any pick up as babies 8 months and up tend to soothe faster in the crib.
• You wait for them to stand up or pull up and then you place them back down so they are looking away from you and not at your face.
• If you feel they are truly frantic and need more you can pick them up for a moment but you put them straight back down.
• At this age it’s important to use your voice even more. Your baby will start to recognize what you are saying, eg. “I’m not leaving you, you’re not alone, it’s nap time” etc.
• At this age you may need to pair pu/pd with gradual leaving of the room. First you stay in the room until asleep, then move a few feet from the crib, in a few days you move to the door, then out the door.
5) What can I expect from the pu/pd process?
You can expect crying and resistance, especially if you’ve previously employed a prop for sleep. “Pu/pd doesn’t prevent crying but it does prevent fear of abandonment, because you stay with the child and comfort him through his tears”. Through your actions you’re saying to your child “its ok, I love you, you can do this, you are ok, it’s ok to be upset, you can do it”, and you should actually say this when soothing your baby during pu/pd as it will also help you to stay calm and to keep perspective.
Your baby will generally go through a series of “peaks” and come down over and over. Eventually they will lose steam and settle. This can take minutes or hours and it’s been known for some babies to take 3 hours to settle with their first pu/pd session, though this is the extreme. The number of pick ups generally gets less every time until you’re down to none and it may help to actually count them so you can chart your progress. In most cases the parents see an improvement over the course of a few days but then the baby regresses around day 5 or so. Typically the baby fights sleep even worse than they did before but if you stick with pu/pd your baby will pop right back. Consistency is the key.
Eventually, after all your hard work, your kind words and touch will put your baby to sleep. This method DOES work if you do it correctly, stick to it and ride it out. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, and this is a lot of work, but it is well worth it in the end. You may want to invest in earplugs to help deafen the cries. You also should consider having support and start pu/pd on a weekend so your husband or a friend can be around to keep you calm. Expect to feel upset and frustrated. Expect to want to give in and go back to your “old” way, your prop… DON’T DO IT.