P.U./P.D. (pick up/put down) is a strategy used by The Baby Whisperer that she states is the "cornerstone of her middle-of-the-road philosophy" because "your child is neither dependent on you or some kind of prop for going to sleep, nor is he abandoned." (TBW Solves All Your Problems, pg. 221). This strategy is used after implementing a good routine, "Four S" ritual, shush-pat and possibly wake to sleep. It is only to be used in children 3-4 months or older, although it may even be too stimulating for some babies until 6 months of age. It is generally used up to a year, although you can do it with an older baby too.
For babies under 3/4 months of age, I suggest my extended pu/pd method which you can learn about in the Newborn Sleep Guide post.
When do I use PU/PD?
- Short naps
- "Refusing" to nap
- Early morning awakenings (when they are due to something mom and dad have done like taking their child into their bed each morning rather than a child's sleep rhythms--see early morning awakenings post)
- Night time awakenings (besides possibly one at this age to eat)
- Child is unable to put himself to sleep without outside assistance (see accidental parenting and sleep props/associations)
- Help establish or extend a routine
How do I use PU/PD?
When your child cries go into him and offer 1) comforting words (or maybe even a song) while 2) placing your hand on his back. If he is under 6 months of age, you can also do shush-pat (note that although TBW suggests this for babies under 6 months, it will work for some past this time so try it out first to see if it will work). If you are unable to comfort your baby in his crib after a short period of time then 3) pick him up. The moment he stops crying say your sleepy phrase ("time to go to sleep" etc), place him back down in his crib and put your hand on his back and offer words of comfort. If he starts to cry again (which he probably will do) then pick him back up again and repeat the process as needed. As soon as he falls into a deep sleep remove your hand from his back and leave the room. Over time you will want to remove your hand sooner so the pressure of your hand doesn't become a sleep prop.
Instead of keeping your hand on baby until he falls into a deep sleep, you may also want to try removing your hands from baby when he starts to settle to sleep and take a step back and see if he can put himself to sleep the rest of the way. You can gradually move farther from the crib during this stage (either during the first attempt or over days) until you are out the door. This approach will help lessen the chance that your hand turns into a new sleep prop for him.
Trouble shooting tips:
- If baby starts to cry as you are placing him back into his crib, continue placing him into his crib all the way and then pick him back up again.
- If baby arches his back, hits you or is in any other way aggressive while you are holding him, place him back down into his bed. Then start over from the beginning with comforting words with your hand on his back.
- If baby is acting out in his crib (flopping around etc) then offer comforting words and maybe a hand on his back to help calm him down physically before you pick him up (or you may end up with a black eye).
- Don't be surprised if baby protests P.U./P.D. if he is not used to sleeping by himself. This method does not prevent crying, but it does do it in a secure environment.
- Since P.U./P.D. is often a lot of works, you may want to recruit your spouse and/or other people to help you do this technique.
- The Baby Whisperer says that P.U./P.D. takes an average of 20 minutes, although it can take over an hour (or more!) with some babies.
- Remember to be consistent, stay calm and keep a calm, comforting voice.
- Don't make eye contact, smile or do any other distracting or fun thing with your child at this time.
- Inserting pacifiers, feeding to sooth and rocking are no nos when doing P.U./P.D. You should not be continuing a sleep prop likes these (or starting one) when you are doing P.U./P.D. to get rid of sleep props. Even a lovey shouldn't be handed to baby when put back in bed. Baby should reach for it just like she will have to do when you are not there.
- If baby will not stop crying during the P.U. part then P.D., offer some comforting words followed by (or at the same time as) a comforting touch or shush/pat if needed. If he is still upset then continue with P.U. again. Using this method you are reassuring baby you are there for him although you are not helping him calm down in your arms. The reassurance is the most important part.
- Many people when doing P.U./P.D. will start with comforting words, if this doesn't work move onto a comforting touch or shush/pat and if this doesn't work pick up baby. The Baby Whisperer suggests touch and words at the same time in her book. I prefer starting with words and moving to touch if needed because it is better if you can put baby to sleep with only your vice compared to your voice and touch.
- You might want to consider wearing ear plugs during the process. You will still hear baby, but it won't be as loud.
- If baby starts to play when she sees you look down at the discussion below in the comments between me (Rachel) and Michelle for some pointers.
PU/PD by Age:
- For 4-6 month olds: Do not hold them longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. Just put them down (all the way down) after this much time has passed then pick them back up again if they are still crying. Holding a baby too long at this age can lead to mom and/or dad turning into a prop.
- For 6-8 month olds: If your baby gets more upset when you pick him up first hold out your hands to him and wait until he holds out his hands to you before picking him up. Once you have picked up your baby, put him in a horizontal position while saying comforting words then place him right back down in his crib again. You may need to walk away from his crib while he is settling/calming down because your appearance may be distracting and make him more upset.
- For 8-12 month olds and up: Babies this age usually settle better outside your arms so don't pick him up unless he gets very upset. Instead, do the put down part of P.U./P.D. when your baby completely stands or sits by taking him in your arms and laying him back down with his face facing away from you. When he is lying in his bed continue to offer words of comfort and place your hand on his back.
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