Sleep Training a Baby
Exhaustion is a real thing when you are a new parent. The baby just seems to want to sleep when you are awake, and party the whole night through when you want to grab those 40 winks. So how can you get your beautiful baby on a sleep cycle that benefits you and them? It is a challenge that many parents ponder as they walk the floor late into the night.
There are many techniques, both physical and psychological (for more tips on that, check out the Baby Sleep Miracle website).
In this guide we're going to give you, we will investigate the process of just what you can do to get your child on a good sleep schedule that will help their health and yours. So, let’s snuggle up and see what sleep training a baby includes.
What is Sleep Training?
The idea of sleep training is simply the process parents use to teach a baby when to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. This process may take a limited time or may take quite a while.
There are specific techniques you can use to help your child learn to sleep on a regular schedule and be able to get back to sleep when woken. Below we will talk about tips and techniques. But before we get into that, let’s talk about when you should start this process for the best results.
When is it Time to Start?
Doctors and experts say that somewhere between 4 and 6 months, you should begin the process of sleep training. A regular sleep cycle usually begins to form around 4 months. With the removal of as many nighttime feedings, it is the perfect time because there is less need for the child to wake during the 8 to 12 hours when they should be sleeping.
Once these things begin to happen, you will know it is time for you to start your training. Every child is different, and you will have to build your training around when your child is ready. If you are not sure that your child is ready, then addressing the issue with your physician is highly suggested.
To get your little one ready for the process, there are a few steps you can take. These steps will help you make the transition easier and less disruptive. So, here are new ideas to institute before finalizing the process:
Build a Bedtime Process
By making a routine that you stick to every night, you can create an expectation that signals the child that it is time for bedtime. Things like a warm bath, reading to the baby, or even singing. Creating this structured routine is a great way to help get the child ready for their normal sleep cycle. There are more ideas on the Baby Sleep Miracle site.
Make sure that routine ends at the same time every night and create a consistent bedtime. The suggested time for a baby is between 7 and 8 at night.
Schedule Your Day as Well
Wake up at the same time and make sure the rest of the daily activities are at regimented times. This includes naps, feeding, and all other normal tasks. This will build an internal schedule that then will help the child learn when things like sleep are meant to occur.
Check-in With the Doctor
If you can’t get your child on a set schedule, there might be a reason, so if you try the routines for several weeks and are getting no movement on the process, checking in with the doctor may be suggested. The child may be suffering from issues like sleep apnea.
These preparations can help make the process smoother and easier on the parents and child. Now you have the baby prepped, let's talk about the tips and techniques you can use to institute a healthy sleep cycle.
Techniques and Tips
Like with all things, there are multiple technique options to use to sleep train your child. But which one will work for your child? This really depends on the child and how well they respond to the given techniques. It also has to do with what will work for you, the parent.
One thing that must be present no matter what technique you use, is consistency. So, when deciding which method you will be using, finding the one that is perfect for you and the baby is crucial.
But be willing to switch it up if there's no progress with the method you chose. If you do have to course correct, make sure that you allow a week or two between methods so that your baby has a chance to settle back to the previous routine. Then start with the preparation again.
Here are the most common sleep training techniques:
Cry It Out
This method is simple. The concept says that you should lay the child down to sleep while still awake and allow them to cry as you leave the room. You shouldn’t let them cry forever but should let them have intervals of tears broken up by simple comforting from the parent. This doesn’t mean pick them up, but use touch and your voice to soothe them.
There are some experts that say that letting them cry will teach the child to calm themselves, which will help build a better ability to sleep and sleep well.
This is the opposite approach to the first. This method is used by lulling the child into sleep — not letting them cry but rather gently and calmly fall asleep. This may mean rocking, singing, or using some other methods soothing the child into sleep.
Consistency of time and practice will help the child fall asleep without a tear shed. This also means that the moment there are tears, returning to soothe and comfort the child. The idea is to not let the tears agitate the child into sleeplessness.
This part of the process is coupled with one of the above methods. This process is done by gradually lessening your presence during bedtime. This can be done bit by bit, moving away from the child as they begin to fall asleep in the crib, working your way gradually to being present only when laying the child down or when they wake from sleep. This is also ultimately intended to help the child teach themselves how to self-soothe.
Once you have worked your way out of the room, you should, for a while, return every time the child cries. This does not mean pick them up or feed them, but allow them to see you. This is intended to let them know you are there but still allow themselves to figure out how to get themselves to sleep.
Check and Console
This method is simple but does require the parents to be a little patient. This method sees the parent checking on the child at set times, but not picking them up or any other physical contact.
Once you have completed the bedtime routine you set up during the prep period, you then put the child to bed while still awake. You will leave the room and return at set times to reassure them that you are there. As you continue sleep training you will gradually increase the time between visits until they see the night through.
This method is another variation of the check and console, which is great for younger babies. This method has you repeating the nighttime routine, laying the baby down to sleep before they are asleep.
The difference is that in this method, you stay in the room. You can even pick them up for a few minutes when the child escalates to a certain level of crying. Then you put them back in the crib, and at this point, you can rub their belly and reassure them with gentle tones of your voice.
Bedtime Fading (routine)
This method has you using whatever method you chose from above or created on your own. Then, gradually, you lessen whatever technique you chose to use until the child doesn’t need any of those any longer to fall asleep.
Bedtime Fading (hour)
This process uses a child's natural sleep cycle. Take a few days to jot down when the child begins to nod off. Then begin to use that time as their bedtime for a few days. Step by step, you will gradually move the bedtime earlier and earlier until you get to the right time.
Remember that if they start to nod off at 8 at night, then you should lay the child down to bed about half an hour before that so you can allow for fuss time.
Now with these methods, if you use some of the tips below, you will be able to improve the overall efficiency of your sleep training process.
There are a few more tips that will help you with your sleep training and the preparation for that sleep training. If you want to be as successful as possible, then try to add these steps into your preparation and sleep training routines.
- Make sure you feed your child well during the day so that they get the idea that night is not for eating but is for sleeping
- Open those shades. By using the light from the sun that comes in the window when opened, you will train the baby to know that daytime is for waking hours and nighttime is for sleep
- Turn on a fan. This is a great way to use low-frequency noise to settle the child down to sleep
- The room needs to be dark. No extra lights so that the baby begins to associate dark with sleep
- Remember that all children are different and try new methods with each one
- Sing to your baby. It has been a tried and true trick to lull your child to sleep — which is why it is called a lullaby. Gentle tones and your soothing, familiar voice will comfort the child and help sleep come easier
- Try a white noise machine. This works for adults, and it can work for a baby
- You can always get a bed attachment for co-sleeping. This allows the baby to feel your presence and still be able to complete their sleep training
- Music could be helpful. Just like white noise and the fan, these techniques work with adults. That means in turn, that baby should be able to take advantage of the soft, gentle tones as well
- If all else fails, reach out to your doctor and various mommy organizations for advice and suggestions. There is a huge network of women and men that have gone through this process and may have some experiences or ideas that will work for your child.
With these methods and tips, you will be sure to find the right way to help sleep train your baby. Once you have the prep, technique, and tricks down, you will be sleeping sweetly in no time and so will that beautiful baby.
So, is sleep training a baby necessary? The real answer is no. Some children settle into their own sleep cycle without any tricks or techniques.
If you want more ideas on sleep training your child, make sure to check out the Baby Sleep Miracle website. In truth, sleep training comes into play when the parents get a little frustrated or need to get the child on a sleep cycle that works with their daily routines or careers.
If your child is one of the easy sleepers, then trying to create a routine to help with that may be counter-intuitive. Each parent and child are different, so make the decision that works with you the best.
However, if you need to sleep train your child, we hope that this article helped you understand where to start and how to get to a night of good sleep for you and your baby.