It is no surprise to most parents when their babies don’t sleep much or wake up repeatedly during the night.
What does often come as a surprise is how quickly this sleep deficit can build-up for both parent and child.
While no one expects to escape the first year of their baby’s life without some exhaustion, finding a solution to sleep issues often becomes priority number one. Sleep training your baby allows both you and your baby to face the day well-rested.
What is sleep training your baby?
Desperate for sleep, you will probably hear others throw around the term sleep training. You may be reluctant to initiate sleep training at first. You may visualize long nights of your baby wailing while you sit outside the door, unable to sleep, but unable to go comfort him.
The good news is that sleep training your baby can mean many different things. All it has to mean is that you teach your baby, or allow her to learn, how to put herself to bed. It does not mean you need to leave your baby alone from bedtime to breakfast.
There is no one right way to sleep train your baby, and even among the various techniques, you are sure to find that some things work well for you and your child and others not so much.
Each family has its own needs and personalities, so it is important to include flexibility into your sleep training plan. It is a rather unfair fact of life that some babies just happen to be better sleepers than others.
With that in mind, it is important that you do not compare your journey with that of friends, or even between siblings. It is also important to recognize that there are two types of sleep training for babies.
They need to learn to go to sleep, and they also need to learn to put themselves back to sleep when they wake during the night.
These are two different skills, and you may have a baby who enjoys a simple bedtime routine and goes right to sleep, but wails when she wakes during the night.
On the other hand, some babies require a lot of effort to get down at bedtime, but when they wake during the night, they don’t need much help getting back to sleep.
What is the best age to start sleep training your baby?
If you start sleep training your baby too early, you are sure to frustrate everyone. Your baby needs a little time to get used to the process of being alive, eating, sleeping, and interacting before you can expect to develop much of a schedule.
The ideal age to start sleep training your baby is generally considered between the ages of four and six months. This gives you some time to observe your baby’s normal sleep cycle through both day and night.
Many babies will have dramatically reduced their need for overnight meals by this time as well. It is easier to sleep train if you can think of those wake-ups as a late dinner and early breakfast.
If your baby is still waking up every 2 hours all night long, sleep training will be a long process. There is a wide range of when babies are developmentally ready for sleep training.
If your child is healthy and grows and gains weight at a good rate, she will probably be ready to start the process between the ages of four and six months. If you are unsure, a quick conversation with your pediatrician can help ease your mind.
Setting the stage for sleep training your baby
The first step to successfully sleep training your baby is to set up a bedtime routine. This can start well before you begin sleep training but now is the time if you haven’t started one yet.
A bedtime routine should include activities your baby finds calming. While many babies enjoy a warm bath, if this gets your baby excited, you may want to save that as a daytime activity. Likewise, if she gets frustrated by rocking and tries to bounce around, it makes more sense to walk with her.
Singing and looking at books together are often calming evening rituals. Part of the evening routine is setting a proper bedtime.
The actual time is less important than the fact that it is at the same time each day, but for most families, a bedtime routine that starts around 7 pm gives you and your baby enough time to wind down and get her to bed while still giving you a little time to unwind before your own bedtime.
An important part of sleep training occurs during the day. A daytime routine with structured meals and naps makes bedtime much easier.
If you have a good daytime schedule, you will easily notice if your baby is napping later than usual, which will make it harder to get to sleep later or not napping enough, which can leave her overtired and cranky.
Selecting a method of sleep training
Once you are ready to begin sleep training, you need to develop a plan of action. There are several established sleep training programs available.
They all work. You just need to select the one you believe will work best for your family. The most important factor when sleep training your baby is consistency. Select a program you believe you can stick with.
Crying it out
This is probably the sleep training method most people think about when they hear the term sleep training. Some parents like the definitive approach, and many babies respond well to it. Other parents are horrified by the idea of letting their baby cry it out.
Finally, some babies are more stubborn than you could imagine, and crying it out becomes a battle that you never saw coming.
Many people misunderstand this program because it was never developed to have your child cry endlessly.
You put your baby in the bed while he is sleepy but awake. You can go back to comfort her if she fusses, but you leave her in the crib. Proponents of crying it out sleep training believe that leaving your baby alone to go to sleep teaches her to self-soothe, which is a necessary skill for going and staying asleep.
Soothing to sleep method
The soothing to sleep method of sleep training your baby involves gradually encouraging your baby to sleep through the night. You respond to your baby when she cries. This is less traumatic for many parents than the cry it out method but does also allow your baby to continue waking and calling for you through the night. This can create bad habits for some babies.
A combination method
A combination approach to sleep training is often a good solution. You don’t abruptly decide your child needs to sleep independently without you, but you also don’t continue to respond to her every request. You gradually disengage from the bedtime process.
However, you can start by staying with your baby, besides the crib, patting her back as she goes to sleep. As she becomes comfortable with this routine, you can just sit with her. Gradually you can move across the room.
Finally, you can leave her tired but awake in her crib. This method also helps with nighttime awakening. Since she has become accustomed to you being close by, but hands-off, she can often soothe herself back to sleep without a fuss.
A little discomfort is necessary
Regardless of your baby’s method of sleep training you choose, you should expect at least a few tears. Responding is fine, and even encouraged, but keep track of the time and the progress you are making with sleep training your baby.
To effectively go to sleep and stay asleep, your baby needs to learn to comfort herself. She will have trouble doing this if you rush in the instant she begins to fuss.
Give her a chance to soothe herself, and when you do soothe her, be unemotional about it. Model calm, quiet behavior through the process. If it has been a rough night, it is better to let her cry a few extra minutes than be frustrated or tense when soothing her.
What is sleep training, and how do you do it?
When you were expecting, what did your friends tell you? Did they say that after the baby was born, you would never sleep again? As silly as that sounds, it’s not completely untrue.
Well, a little untrue; however, if you don’t implement proper sleep habits at an early age, your chances of catching enough winks could become a distant memory.
Understanding what sleep training is, how it works, and how implementing it isn’t as difficult as it may seem. But before we go any further, what is sleep training? Continue reading to learn what sleep training is and how it benefits both you and your baby:
What is sleep training?
When you research “what is sleep training online,” what pops up? Even with the abundance of information about sleep training available, it can still be confusing to new parents.
Sleep training is all about teaching your baby how to fall asleep and remain asleep on their own. For some people, it may seem odd that going to sleep doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
If you’re new to the world of parenting or have children who just don’t want to follow a schedule, you are probably well aware of the truth. But if your baby is having trouble sleeping peacefully, it’s important to establish proper sleep hygiene habits as early as possible.
Even though babies spend a majority of time sleeping during their first few months of life, they still have to learn when and how to sleep. Once the middle-of-the-night feedings are over, most babies have already developed a sleep-wake cycle.
Effective sleep training can help both you and the baby get a good night’s rest. Before they’re able to sleep on their own, babies need their parents’ help, which makes it all the more important to learn what sleep training is.
Sleep training is more than simply putting your baby in their room. It’s all about self-soothing and teaching your baby how to stay asleep on their own. There are plenty of benefits that come with sleep training your baby.
One of the top benefits that come with sleep training is that everyone gets to sleep through the night without having to worry about a fussy baby. Regardless of the reason, broken sleep leads to decreased concentration levels and memory fog and makes it dangerous to drive a car.
In addition, your baby needs a proper amount of sleep to develop and reach all of those wonderful milestones that await them! Now, keep in mind that sleep training is not exactly a must for all babies.
In fact, many families who skip sleep training have children without sleep disturbances. A common misconception is that some pediatricians may try to force you into sleep training.
However, this is not the case. Medical experts have stated that the best way to approach sleep training is the one that’s best suited for your family.
When to start sleep training
Worn-out parents may be extremely eager to start their baby’s sleep training right away. Knowing when to start sleep training can be difficult to figure out for new parents. Some babies are able to start their sleep training when they’re four to six months old.
However, there is no “perfect time” to start your baby’s sleep training. While four months is considered the best time to start, it’s perfectly okay to start when your baby is around seven to 10 months.
During the first few months of your baby’s life or when you were pregnant, you may have researched various forms of sleep training. Doing research is fine, but remember, it’s important to discuss sleep training with your pediatrician before starting to start.
Some descriptions of sleep training you’ve read online are not entirely accurate. In fact, they can be downright false. Your pediatrician is a trained medical professional who understands how beneficial sleep training can be.
For instance, let’s say that your baby is slow to gain weight or was born prematurely. They might not be ready to stop night-time feedings and will need a sleep schedule that has adapted to waking up in the middle of the night.
How to sleep train
Now that your question of “what is sleep training?” has been answered, it’s time to get into how to sleep train your baby. There are several ways to implement sleep training into your baby’s routine.
One way is called gentle sleep training. With this method, you pick up your child and gently rock them back and forth until they fall asleep. It’s also to soothe your baby if they’re crying.
Other methods include letting your baby soothe themselves for the night and not open their door until the morning.
While neither of these methods is considered right or wrong, it does depend on what works best for you and your family. Every sleep training method has its pros and cons, so it’s important to understand each method works. Below are some of the most popular forms of sleep training:
The no-tears method
This method was created by a sleep expert Elizabeth Pantley. The no-tears method involves you subtly changing your baby’s sleep habits.
For example, if your child always needs to be rocked back and forth, you will rock them less and less until they can be put down to sleep without the need for it.
This technique is known as fading, which means that you slowly but surely ease your baby out of their go-to-sleep strategy.
The CIO method
Also known as the cry-it-out method, this form of sleep training involves letting your child learn to soothe themselves. This means you do not interfere as they’re trying to fall asleep.
The general idea of this method is that babies are able to learn how to self-soothe and stop crying in order to sleep through the night.
The Weissbluth method
There’s a bit more to this sleep training method than the other two. Basically, it involves setting up a sleep routine for your baby. For example, you may give your baby a warm bath followed by storytime and a lullaby.
Once the baby falls asleep, close the door and do not enter until morning. If you choose to try this method when your baby around four months old, know that it may not be so easy at first.
You may have to deal with a lot of crying. However, it will gradually fade as your baby becomes more accustomed to the routine.
Again, it all depends on your baby’s needs and whether they’ve stopped nursing during the night.
The pick up and put down method
Similar to the Ferber method, you put your baby to bed while they’re still awake and check on them a few times. However, unlike the Ferber method, you can pick your baby up, comfort them, hold them for a few more minutes before finally putting them back down again.
Over time, your child will become sleepy and end up going to sleep on their own. Regardless of what method you choose, you must understand that sleep training is a different experience for every parent.
You’re bound to hear about a baby who was able to sleep through the night on day one, but that doesn’t mean they can sleep on their own.
So, the question is, how long does sleep training take? Most medical experts estimate that most forms of sleep training at least a week to implement. Sticking to them is what will ultimately make them work.
What are sleeping training alternatives?
If the idea of letting your baby cry it out sends shivers down your spine, it’s okay to try other ways to get some rest. First and foremost, make the most out of your own personal sleep time.
Allow yourself at least six to seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, even on alternate nights. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to deal with your little night owl.
In addition, nap when your baby naps. Even if it’s for 20 minutes, nothing feels better than a cat nap.
What are sleep training contraindications?
There are various books can answer the question, “What is sleep training?”. However, you should always speak to your pediatrician before embarking on a sleep training regimen.
There are situations that warrant holding off, which includes low birth weight or other medical issues. Sleep training is not always a viable option for every baby.
As stated above, the best way to succeed with sleep training is to find a method that works for you and your family. Sleeping training is always able to be tweaked to suit the situation.
Keep an accurate record of which methods you try, so you can weed out ones that aren’t doing the trick.
Sleep training is one of the best ways to teach your little one proper sleep habits. Don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work the first time around.
When it comes to parenting, it’s all about trial and error. Rest assured, no matter how long it persists, your sleepless nights will eventually end.