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New mothers don’t have many options but to adjust according to their babies’ irregular schedule. Growing babies need their food; this, however, may result in the child waking up at untimely hours to get fed. However, once babies are a little older, they will not need to feed as frequently and can sleep for long hours. This is when you can begin your child’s sleep training.
What is Baby Sleep Training?
Baby sleep training, simply put, is the process of teaching your baby how to fall and stay asleep. It can be really important for the baby as well as for you to catch up on all those months of lost sleep. Most of the baby’s brain development happens when he is asleep, making adequate sleep essential for babies.
When Should You Start Sleep Training Your Baby?
You can start sleep training your baby when he turns 6 months old, as by this age he would have achieved certain milestones like rolling on his side or on his tummy, sucking his thumb, etc. In addition to this, around 4 to 6 months your baby’s circadian rhythm or sleep pattern is also developing slowly, which shows that your baby is ready for sleep training. However, you may also begin sleep training a 4-month-old if you think your baby is ready for it.
How to Sleep Train an Infant?
There are several methods that can be used in the process of sleep training your baby. However, it is important that you understand the method thoroughly before implementing. Always pick the one that suits your baby’s temperament and the needs of your family. There is no single approach that has proven to be successful for all. If your baby doesn’t take well to a certain method for a long time, you may need to opt for another. It is also advisable to discuss with your paediatrician about the method before starting it.
Methods of Sleep Training
Here are a few baby sleep training methods that you can choose based on your baby’s as well as your requirements.
1. Fading Sleep Training Method
This method works well for parents who cannot or do not want to see their baby cry. It involves little to no crying and works with your baby’s natural sleep pattern. All you need to do is continue helping your baby fall asleep as usual. If you rock your baby, feed him or sing him for him to fall asleep, continue doing the same, but gradually reduce the timing, until you do it for less than a couple of minutes. This method calls for patience and time, but will teach your baby to fall asleep on his own.
This method may be hard for a lot of parents as well as the baby, which is why many parents deter from using it. However, many mothers have found it useful. The process involved is simple. When your baby is drowsy, place him in the crib and if he cries, comfort him without picking him up. Walk out of the room and allow your baby to self-soothe. He will eventually cry for a shorter duration of time and learn to fall asleep on his own.
3. ‘No Tears’ Method
This method involves comforting the baby each time she cries. The developer of the method, William Sears, believes that allowing the baby to cry without being comforted will impact him negatively. To use this method, you will need to establish a schedule and stick to it. Ensure that your baby feeds enough throughout the day to establish the connection between eating in the day and sleeping in the night. Use a specific word to denote sleep time and say it before bedtime each day. You may even use the same word if he wakes up in the middle of the night. Only respond and comfort when your baby is crying and awake.
4. The ‘Ferberizing’ Method
Ferberizing was developed by Richard Ferber, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital. This method associated certain events with sleep time, like rocking or bathing. After this, you can place the baby in the crib, say goodnight and walk out. If your baby cries, you can walk in after an interval of 5 or 10 minutes to console your baby. However, do not pick him up. Console him for a minute or two and walk out again. If he cries, you can check on him again, each time, after a slightly longer interval, 10 to 15 minutes. Continue this until your baby falls asleep on his own.
5. ‘The Chair’ Method
This idea behind this method is to assure your baby that you are available at all times. You simply have to place the chair in the bedroom next to his crib and sit on it until he falls asleep. You do not get to engage with the baby even if he cries. Every subsequent night, you will need to move the chair further away from the crib until you are at the door and finally don’t need to be in the room at all. This method may be hard for parents if they have trouble ignoring their baby as he cries. It may also take a few days or weeks to how effectiveness. However, it can be ideal for parents who wouldn’t want to leave their babies alone to cry.
6. ‘Pick Up and Put Down’ Method (PUPD)
This method is pretty straightforward. The idea is to pick the baby up from the crib when he is fussy and cries during bedtime. Comfort him until he’s calm and ready to get back into the crib. You will need to repeat this method until the baby falls asleep. This is a gentle method that will assure the baby that you are around. However, it can require a good amount of patience and may not be ideal for all babies. Some babies may even feel worked up due to the constant picking up.
How Long Does Sleep Training Take?
The time it takes to sleep train each baby is different as it depends on the temperament of the baby. Some babies take to it faster than the others. Most method of sleep training will at least take a week to implement effectively with consistent practice.
Tips for Sleep-training Your Child
Not all methods work the same way for all babies. However, whatever method you use, there are some tips and measures that you can use to help facilitate your baby to sleep train. Here are some of the best ways to sleep train a baby.
- As best as you can comfort your baby without touching him. Do not pick him up and let him know that you are there from afar.
- Make sure your baby is comfortable in the crib. The mattress, comforter, and pillow need to soft and comfortable.
- Choose a technique that you are comfortable with. If you find not heeding to a crying baby difficult, you may want to choose gentler methods. Always choose a method that you can be consistent with and can continue until it shows results.
- Swaddle your baby. Wrapping up your baby can help him remain calm and feel secure.
- Create a routine. It is absolutely essential that you establish a bedtime routine and a practice that signals bedtime. This can help your baby associate something with his sleep time. Try soothing activities like music, reading, etc.
- Be aware that there will be setbacks. There are several reasons why your baby may not respond to the method on particular days. It could be because of ill-health, teething, etc. Be prepared to deal with these and get back to a routine once your baby is comfortable.
- Have patience. Don’t expect your baby to respond to the sleep training immediately. The key is to be consistent and not let the routine sleep, unless absolutely inevitable.
- Your baby may cry for different reasons at night. He may be hungry or may need a change of diaper. If your baby cries for long stretches, always check on him.
- Ensure that the temperature and the lighting in the room are right to allow for a comfortable sleep for your baby. If the rooms are too hold or too cold, it may disrupt your baby’s sleep.
Although not a necessity, sleep training methods can help your baby to learn to sleep on his own and also give you that much-needed respite in the night. However, it is important to understand that every baby is different and responds differently to the methods. What works on one may not work on another. Many parents find that not using a method works well for them, some others may even be lucky to have a baby that naturally sleeps well at night. Do not compare your baby’s progress with others. In case your baby goes for a long time without sleeping in the night, you may need to reach out to a paediatrician to rule out any underlying conditions.
Also Read: Baby Sleeping Position – What Is Safe?