There’s a reason that soon-to-be parents are often told: “you’ll never sleep again.” This cliche holds true in most cases because in the first few months of parenting before a baby has an established sleep-wake cycle, sleep is often confusing for them.
While it’s very common for babies to have trouble sleeping through the night, a continued pattern of this after a baby is a few months old can cause the whole family to suffer from sleep deprivation. Here is what you should know when choosing the best sleep training method for your baby and the entire family.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep training, if done right, can help everyone in the house get a better night’s rest and support healthy development for the baby in the long term.
When Should I Start Sleep Training?
Exhausted parents may want to start sleep training right away, but most infants are ready to begin training at 4 to 6 months. Depending on how well your baby is sleeping, it may be more appropriate to wait until ten months or even a year old before you begin sleep training.
Sleep Training Methods
There are several different sleep training programs, each with their own set of pros and cons. Which method you use is entirely up to preference and what you feel will work best for you.
Some of the most popular sleep-training methods:
No cry method. This method involves subtly shifting your child’s sleep habits. For example, if a baby always needed to be rocked, you would start rocking it less and less until eventually, it didn’t need rocking to go to sleep anymore.
Cry it out method. Also known as cry it out sleep training, this method involves teaching a baby to soothe itself to sleep and not interfering as they try to fall asleep.
Weissbluth method. This method suggests following a bedtime routine every night, putting the baby to sleep, and shutting the door and not re-entering until the next morning.
Ferber method. Also known as timed-interval sleep training, this method requires putting the baby down to sleep even if he or she is crying, then returning to check on them at different time intervals in the middle of the night (every 10 to 15 minutes or so).
Chair method. This method starts with you sitting in a chair next to the baby’s crib. Each night, you move the chair farther away from the crib and verbally shush the baby when he or she cries. This method is helpful for older toddlers as well who may suffer from separation anxiety.
Pick-up-put-down method. This method involves putting the baby to sleep while it is still awake and checking on it at gradual intervals until they soothe themselves to sleep. Unlike the Ferber method, you can pick the baby up and comfort them when you check.
Tips for Sleep-Training a Baby:
Understand that there will be sleep regression. During sleep training, there will likely be sleep regression―a period when a baby goes from sleeping well to suddenly waking again for no reason. Hang in there and continue the sleep training, this is normal.
Have a bedtime routine. Regardless of the sleep-training method that you use, having a stable, consistent bedtime routine is critical. Infants should go to bed between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Keep other aspects of the routine consistent; whether it’s a bath, a book, or a lullaby, always stick with that routine for the best results. A white noise machine may also help get your infant to sleep every single night.
Don’t compare, do what works for you. What may have worked for one family may not necessarily be the best choice for yours. Every family’s sleep needs are different, and every baby is different.
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