Have you ever heard about the 'sleep training' concept? It's commonly known that one of the new parents' first milestones is spending sleepless nights while trying to settle their babies to sleep.
It usually takes a few months for babies to develop a regular sleep routine, but there are things we can do to help them reach such a milestone. That's basically what baby sleep training consists in, and no, it's not a piece of cake. It may require some teamwork between you and Dad, along with discipline.
Do you know what to do to calm your baby down when he suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night? Or are you pregnant and worried about how that dynamic is going to affect your life after giving birth? If so, we invite you to keep reading to learn useful tips for sleep training baby.
When to start sleep training
Experts don't recommend starting sleep training until your little one is four to six months old for obvious reasons: newborn babies have essential needs that can't be ignored, especially the nursing phase. During their first three months of life, babies are usually fed on demand between 8 and 12 times a day, at intervals of two to three hours. Considering this, it is rare that they sleep through the night without disrupting your dreams. Rather, expect them to cry, asking for food and, why not, some snuggles.
Setting the scene for sleep training
Past the first three months after your baby is born, you could plan on sleep training him. For the last few weeks, your child may have started developing sort of a regular pattern when it comes to sleeping at night, and by now he may barely ask to be fed when the sun goes down. It's a gradual process that newborns make as part of their development but, of course, you can't forget that every baby is different (some are 'quick studies', while others take longer to adapt to changes).
And what should you do when your munchkin shows you signs that he could be ready for sleep training? The point is for you to get him on a regular schedule, trying to create a bedtime routine, if you haven't already done it. How? When you put him to sleep, choose and do the same activities every day: reading him a story, singing a lullaby or placing his favourite stuffed animal in the crib to accompany him.
Before considering baby sleep training, be sure to schedule an appointment with the paediatrician, so that he or she can rule out any medical conditions that could keep your child from sleeping consistently. Sleep apnea, reflux and allergies are underlying problems that can cause it.
Sleep training methods
Once you get the green light to sleep training your child, you need to decide on a method or methods to do so. Indeed, there are different strategies to give your baby a gentle push to make him fall asleep, though experts claim that regardless of which one you pick, consistency is the key to success. These are some of the most famous techniques for sleep training your child:
- The 'cry-it-out': this method is based on letting your baby cry alone for prescribed periods of time, since this is thought to help him learn how to soothe himself. That doesn't mean you have to ignore him endlessly, but comforting him just once in a while and extending such 'waits' every day, little by little. If needed, you can use a timer to calculate the intervals.
- The 'no tears' approach: yes, it's exactly the contrary to the previous one. It's about checking on your little one every time he cries, in order to calm him down right away. This technique advocates a more gradual process.
- The 'five S's': this method is designed to recreate the environment of the womb with noises and movements, in other words, by swaddling, putting him on his side or stomach, shushing, swinging and sucking.
Summing up, when it comes to sleep training, “baby, fall asleep!” is a message that won't help you. After all, it will take you to know your own child very well to set the best sleep training strategy. We encourage you to try the common methods listed above or even mix them, but remember that being persistent is the most important rule. If whatever you do works out, it means that you are doing a good job and that your child is adopting good sleeping habits.