Parents will agree with us that some of the most frustrating times of their parenting journeys have been those moments their cute little humans just couldn’t and probably still can’t fall asleep for whatever reason and it is up to the parent to figure out what it is and provide an ambient environment for the young one to fall asleep and stay asleep because well, we all know that sleep is vital for the well-being and development of these young ones.
But the question is, what will ultimately make our babies not sleep and what should be done to curb the situation? Also, how often does this happen, and for long will you need to catalyze their sleeping?
So, what exactly is sleep training for a baby and how can we make it easier for you to digest maybe giving you more time to sleep too? How does one make a baby sleep like a baby? Tough question, huh? Isn’t sleep naturally meant to come and overwhelm someone? Sleep training is about simply helping your baby learn how to fall asleep and independently stay so. There is a whole lot of information out there on how to best and most effectively do this. However, the approaches differ from one baby to another.
The thing is parents, you can easily and quickly bring yourself to sleep because you know exactly what conducive environment to put yourself in. Unfortunately, these babies don’t share this ability with us, and even though they usually stay asleep for long periods, it needs to be instilled in them and a habit developed on when and how to do so independently. Don’t make your life harder, take the time to find the best sleep training method below.
When Do I Start Sleep Training?
Make no mistake, all babies are different and so are their individual sleeping behaviors. Some babies may need it at an earlier time than others. Whereas your sister’s baby’s needs won’t be your own baby’s.
It is never too early or too late to start or establishing a healthy sleeping pattern for your child. This can even start from the very first day they arrive on earth, but most babies are ready for proper sleep from about four to five months old. This is the age they start learning how to fall asleep and self-soothe, but other bedtime routines like putting them down drowsy but awake can be an excellent way to start, and this will be a foundation for sleep training.
What Sleep Training Isn’t About
It is not neglecting your baby and letting them cry out till they grow weary and fall asleep in the process. Neither is it denying them food with the notion that they will eventually sleep when they have no more energy left in them. Some parents have their interests prioritized, and so they force their baby to sleep at times they know are convenient for them.
Being a new mother all babies can be tough. Check out “How Does a Newborn Change Your Life?” for techniques to making sure your newborn doesn’t affect you or overwhelm you right away.
Sleep Training Techniques
There are many different sleep training methods to make your baby fall asleep easier. Here are some of the most common ways you can try out. You can choose to have one or a variation of one of these.
1. Cry it out (CIO)
This is the least gentle method of them all. It is one of the methods one person swears by while another swears off. It is loved and hated in equal measure. Funny enough, while it seems and proves to be so painful for some parents to bear, some pediatricians support the CIO method.
This method is aimed at teaching the baby to self-soothe. The idea is simple: First, as a parent or caregiver, you are advised to establish a consistent bedtime routine, then lovingly soothe the baby before you put them down drowsy but awake. Afterward, leave the baby alone to cry out till they fall asleep. You should not indefinitely leave them to cry because if they persist, there is more to sleep at stake, and thus, the baby needs to be attended to.
2. The Weissbluth method
Just like CIO, this is another controversial sleep training technique that encourages a parent to leave their baby in the bassinet or crib to cry it out without going back in to comfort them.
This method employs an approach called extinction. This is meant to get rid of any parental interference while at the same time discouraging the unhealthy and unhelpful sleep association between the baby and the parent that comes with constant interaction like needing to rock their baby to sleep.
This technique has some exemptions. For instance, if there is an emergency or the baby needs a diaper change, or they are hungry. Results are to be expected after a few days, so it can be tough at the beginning.
3. The Ferber method
All these methods are aimed at minimizing the association between a parent and their babies, especially during sleeping hours. Here, a parent is advised to put his/her baby down and leave the room. It is expected that the baby will cry. If this happens, the parent can go back at certain intervals and offer comfort by any other means possible but not pick the baby up.
They can pat the baby, sing for them, or offer other soothing words. The idea is to keep widening your interval check-in time. This time is also referred to as the “progressive waiting. You start things off by making constant and routine checkups after a few minutes, then move to a longer time interval, and before long, you will see the results. At some point, you can only be checking up on them after hours from the time you first left them lying down drowsy but awake.
Be sure to check out “Morning Routine for Stay at Home Moms” for a guide to staying organized in the mornings.
4. The no tears method
This also requires check-ins, but these are different. Again, start by laying your little one down while observing a consistently early bedtime. This method works under the assumption that you go and soothe your baby every time s/he wakes up.
Every time they cry, walk-in, soothe them until they calm down. Wait till this happens, and the baby is back to sleep. This method is advised under sincere awakenings. Just don’t do it with those minor whimpers. It is assumed by now, you know when your baby is truly up and crying and when they are just whining. Sometimes you have to make yourself aware of the different habits of your baby in order to fully have a better experience.
5. The chair method
This method is also known as the Sleep Lady Shuffle.
The chair method is another gradual sleep training approach that uses a chair hence the name. A parent is encouraged to take a chair and sit next to the baby in their crib for some nights. It’s advisable not to pick them up even when they cry out. It is meant to assure the baby of the parent’s presence.
This, however, can significantly test your patience or time. It takes an average of ninety minutes for a baby to fall asleep completely.
A few days later, say after three days, move your chair farther away from the baby’s crib. For the next three nights, sit at the entrance. Repeat the trend until you are no longer needed in the room. After several days, you won’t even need to be there. Their dependence on you to sleep will have been dealt with.
6. Fading out
This is an exciting approach and the most flexible method of them all. It requires a parent to reduce the amount of time they spend soothing or rocking their baby to sleep. If you are always patting your child to sleep for thirty minutes, start by bringing that down to about twenty minutes. Gradually reduce this time until you eventually won’t need to do so. The pace at which you fade off/ withdraw solely depends on you and how your child responds.
Experts, however, point out that it can take longer than the other methods. It is said to take anywhere between three weeks to three months to work. This can discourage some parents, but it should not as long as there is a result in the end.
7. The Pickup, Put Down Method
Like every other sleep training method, the pickup, put down method is meant to teach infants how to self-soothe without making them feel abandoned by their parents.
Here, a parent is encouraged to put their baby down while drowsy but still awake while taking note of the baby’s next move. If they comfortably relax and not fuss, leave the room. Also, if they start to cry, follow a stop-wait-listen approach. If they keep crying, pick them up and soothe them for a short while before putting them back to their sleeping position.
Do this religiously until your baby is fully settled and has fallen asleep. Just like the fading out method, this too takes time to stick completely. It can take weeks to months and so patience is key virtue here.
As a mother, you need to have your priorities in order if you’re going to fit your child’s sleeping habits into your busy schedule. Check out “How to Set Priorities as a Stay-at-Home Mom” for more organization practices.
I Still Can’t Decide. How Do I Establish the Best Approach?
In order not to get stuck at this stage where your baby is irritable and tired because they cannot get enough sleep, you must try several methods out. Be very intentional about it, and stay keen about your baby’s reaction to each one of them.
Some people opt for a sleep coach or sleep consultant to help them with sleep training, and that is perfectly okay. The beauty with a sleep coach is that, while some people might question the graciousness of having someone help your child to sleep, these coaches are trained and are quick to identify underlying sleep problems and can help you to develop a personalized plan for your child that addresses the issue.
Also, these professionals tend to understand your pain very well, and so will always offer you the right support and encouragement when things don’t seem to be working out. They will give you the help (with plans and techniques) you need to follow throughout that training until results start to become apparent.
After having your child it may be hard to feel your whole self again. Sometimes a mother gets too overwhelmed and worked up from becoming a new mother to a beautiful baby. Be sure to read “Postpartum Depression and 10 Ways to Deal with it” for more helpful info.
Introducing healthy sleeping habits and routines as early as possible in the life of your little one significantly helps during sleep training. Plus, it can make or break your sleep pattern for the better! Raising a healthy sleeper starts with a consistent bedtime routine that starts as early as possible. Other than the sleeping habits and training, you need to ensure that your child is well-fed. It just might be the reason they can’t sleep!
Additionally, teach your baby early enough to know the difference between day and night. Let light shine in when its daytime and keep their night-time environment quiet and dark. One last and crucial note regarding sleep training is that you should not always respond to every peep and moan. It is normal for kids to cry in their sleep occasionally. Responding to the minor whimpers only disrupts the self-soothing process, which is otherwise what you are trying to achieve through sleep training.
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