Sleep training helps baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night – it sounds pretty good right? Especially for the first few months! Babies are tiny humans, each with their own distinct personalities, and their sleeping habits can widely differ from baby to baby.
Some babies may fall asleep quickly and stay asleep like a log, others may find it difficult to settle down to sleep or going back to sleep after waking up. That’s where we parents come in to soothe them back to sleep, and it’s normal to spend some time at night getting baby back to sleep!
When can sleep training begin?
Usually, you can start baby on sleep training when they’re around 4 to 6 months old. This is because baby would’ve developed a regular sleeping cycle at about 4 months, stopped most of their night feedings, and will be able to sleep for much longer stretches at night.
Take note that ‘usually’ was mentioned above! Once again, babies are all different and some could sleep longer than 6-7 hours at a younger age, while others won’t reach that amount of sleep until they’re older. Always check with your paediatrician if you’re planning to start on sleep training, to see if baby is ready for it.
Preparing for sleep training
You have to not only prepare baby for sleep training, but yourselves too! Here are some simple steps to make the process easier:
1. Decrease night feeds
As mentioned before, one of the key starting points for sleep training is to decrease the association between sleeping and eating. When they’re younger, baby needs to feed at night, but as they grow older this need transforms into a habit instead.
Gradually decrease the amount that you feed them at night, whether baby is breast- or bottle-fed, over the course of a few weeks. Baby might make some noise at the end of their feed because they’re used to feeling fuller, but you can do your standard soothing techniques to help them fall asleep.
2. Keep to a routine
Try to keep baby to an established bedtime. Baby’s last feed should be around 30 minutes before bedtime in order to keep them nice and full! Keep up with the bedtime routines too – rocking, singing, listening to music, reading, etc. – as this will familiarise baby with them before sleep training happens.
3. Visit your paediatrician
If baby can’t sleep, check with your PD if there are any underlying medical issues that are causing it. Simple issues are like the common cold or teething, and more serious issues could be food allergies, reflux, or sleep apnea. Visit your PD if you have any questions about sleep training as well, and make sure to get the green light from them before you proceed!
4. Clear your calendar
Exactly what it says! Don’t try sleep training before a vacation or moving homes – you’ll need as much time as possible to help baby settle into a routine and, most importantly, stick to it. Having baby experience a new environment is counterproductive to sleep training!
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3 methods of sleep training
I’ve no doubt that you’ve at least heard of one of these sleep training methods (maybe not in-depth, but as a passing comment from your friends) – the cry it out method, the no tears method, and the fading method.
Cry it out: Let baby cry when you put them to bed before leaving the room, and coming back if they’re still crying to comfort them (when comforting, don’t pick them up or carry them).
No tears: Similar to crying it out, but offering comfort and soothing baby almost immediately when they begin crying, and waiting until they fall asleep.
Fading: This method is the middle-ground between the two; you either sit near baby until they fall asleep and then gradually move your chair further and further every night, or you check up and reassure baby every 5 minutes until they fall asleep.
Not really, as it depends on the parents and their tolerance levels – if you’re getting frustrated with baby’s sleeping habits and nothing you do seems to help them sleep, you can consider sleep training. One family might be able to function properly after waking up multiple times at night, while another might be a complete wreck after waking up 2 times, so it really depends on you.
But remember, a better night’s sleep for baby is also a better night’s sleep for you too!
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