One of the most important things you should know about while having a baby is the time when you should start his/her sleep training. Although the need doesn’t arise until the baby is 4-5 months old but it’s important for you to establish a routine early on so that when the time to sleep train him does arrive, it doesn’t cause as much trouble as it would.
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Sleep training basically refers to the techniques and practices done in order to teach your baby to fall asleep on his/her own. It involves a little bit of tough love, some soothing and a whole lot of tears (maybe even your own). But in the end, it’s all going to be worth it as your baby learns to fall, and stay, asleep through the night.
Some babies don’t have a hard time learning to fall asleep and keep sleeping through the night. But there are other babies who find it difficult to follow a proper sleep-wake routine. There are some methods introduced below to help you decide which one would be good for your baby. You don’t necessarily have to use these methods if your baby isn’t making much of a fuss, but in case he does, it’s good to keep the techniques in mind to help you through the process.
If your baby is 1-2 months old, it’s okay that he is fussy during the night. It means he needs to be fed or has some other issue that he/she needs you to address. But if your baby has reached the 4th to 5th/6th month mark, it’s time to start the basics needed to sleep train him.
Babies also start to learn other skills during this time so it can most probably be possible for him/her to divert their attention from focusing on a sleep cycle to focusing on rolling around, learning to crawl, etc. So they will become frustrated if you try to make them follow a strict sleep schedule. The key is to observe the baby’s needs in a particular stage and try to start getting him ready to follow a routine rather than changing his routine entirely to make sure he’s falling asleep on his own.
As discussed above, it’s better to start preparing the baby to follow a consistent routine rather than changing his schedule entirely out of the blue. The following steps will come in handy while preparing to sleep train your baby:
It’s recommended to get the baby in the crib around 8 p.m so that he/she is exhausted enough to fall asleep without creating a fuss.
Introduce a bedtime activity to let the baby learn that it is time to go to sleep; giving him a warm bath, singing poems and lullabies, etc can be good tasks to consider while also giving some good hygienic lessons and letting you both bond.
You need to introduce a daytime routine that teaches the baby when to take naps, when to play and when to feed. It isn’t a fast process but with a proper amount of consistency and patience, you will see the baby starting to follow the routine.
If your baby has a hard time falling asleep, check if the little one doesn’t have any other underlying issue that’s disrupting his sleep schedule. Discuss this with your doctor before embarking on regular sleep training methods.
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Although not every baby need extensive sleep training to learn to follow a proper sleep cycle, some babies do need to be properly trained so that they learn not to be so dependent upon you in order to fall asleep. Some babies learn to soothe themselves and fall asleep for longer periods earlier, while others need to grow a little before they’re ready to learn that. Whatever your baby’s need, the bottom line is, they won’t depend upon you for their sleep for a very long time. Following are the most common methods of sleep training suggested by experts:
This is also known as the ‘check-and-console’ method. In this technique, it’s suggested that the baby is put in the crib, then the primary caretaker (mother, father, etc) leaves the room for a few minutes, then she comes back into the room to check up on the baby and say a few soothing words of comfort, then go out again. This process is to continue until the baby falls asleep.
If the little one wakes up during the night, the same cycle is to be repeated until he falls back asleep. To ensure you’re not picking up or rocking the baby during this whole time. Just show him you’re here but don’t touch him.
Some experts suggest this method to be introduced only after the baby has reached a certain age of understanding, e.g. 7-8 months, as a 4-5 months old is prone to work himself up into a frenzy, especially if they see their parent but aren’t picked up or cuddled. For this purpose, some parents prefer the extinction (CIO) method described below.
Also called the ‘extinction’ method, in this training technique the baby is left alone to cry alone so they get tired and fall asleep on their own. This method is criticized extensively and is also considered to be a bit cruel but it works for some parents, especially if the baby is colic and no other method has been helpful to calm him down.
It’s important to ensure your baby is not suffering through any other problem when they’re crying their lungs out before you go ahead and ignore them entirely to tend for themselves. It is one of the most controversy-ridden methods of sleep training, the most important part is what works for your baby.
It’s hard to leave the little one for a whole night, especially if they keep waking up every few hours. Some experts recommend going back in the room after 2-3 wake-ups in order to soothe the baby, feed him if needed, and assure him you’ve not abandoned him. It’s better to not use this method on babies who are still at a lower developmental stage so as not to cause any insecurities or anxieties in the little one.
The chair method is also known as the ‘fading’ technique where the primary caregiver places a chair next to the crib so the baby is assured of their parents. And continue the exercise each night while placing the chair farther and farther away from the crib until you’re entirely out of the little one’s sight.
This method is similar to the Ferber Method. The idea behind both of these approaches is to teach the baby to soothe himself instead of relying solely on you for the task.
If you put your baby into their crib at 8 and he/she plays or fusses for about 30 minutes, then it means she’s falling asleep at 8.30. So in order to tackle this, try to get her into bed 15 minutes earlier, so that she falls asleep at an earlier time; continue doing so by putting her to bed around that time for a few days. Then move to an even earlier time than the one you just trained her into. Continue this for a few days too until the baby learns to sleep earlier.
With this process, you can gradually reach the sleep time you initially desired to be ideal for your baby’s bedtime.
If you rock your baby into falling asleep, try doing it lesser and lesser after every few days until the activity is entirely eliminated and the baby learns to fall asleep without associating a particular activity with his bedtime.
These are the most common approaches to sleep practiced by parents. Remember, every baby is different. What works for some babies may not be a good approach for others. Just observe what your baby needs in order to have a good night’s sleep, that is the most important part. You don’t always HAVE to listen to the experts if their recommendations don’t go with your baby’s personality.
Do what’s best for your baby, not what others suggest to be best for your baby. You are going to face a lot of problems and find it hard to follow through with the training, but remind yourself that this is just temporary. Soon, your baby as well as you are going to start sleeping through the night without a fuss.
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