Baby sleep training is one of the most searched topics among new parents. Thankfully there are so many sleep training methods and techniques out there that you can use to help train your baby sleep on their own. But even with so many ‘noises’ out there, how can you make the sense of it all? In this article, we are going to breakdown the most effective baby sleep training methods that are suitable for you and your child.
What is baby sleep training?
Baby sleep training is the process of teaching and training your infant how to sleep independently. You can achieve this in many ways with the help of already established training methods or customizing your own.
Sleep training is usually tailored in relation to sleep associations. Sleep associations are the things your infant baby does that help him or her go to sleep. There are two types of sleep associations; positive, which includes the actions babies take in order to go to sleep independently, such as holding onto a lovey or humming; and negative sleep associations, which are actions a caregiver or a parent takes to make babies fall asleep, such as feeding them or rocking them.
Is it important to sleep train?
It is essential to train your baby to sleep independently, though there is no rule that states you must sleep train. This is a personal thing that will depend entirely on your needs. If you have a baby sleep schedule, then training them to sleep can be a great option.
The best age for sleep training
According to sleep coaches, the best time to start sleep training depends on your baby’s development, which should be somewhere between four and six months. This time is perfect because your baby has not gotten used to rocking or nursing to sleep. Also, at this age, most babies are developmentally ready to learn new skills which include how to fall asleep on their own. Around four months, mots babies undergo sleep regression due to changes in their sleep cycles and there may be elongated periods of lighter sleep per cycle; making it a great time to start baby sleep training.
You can still practice sleep training on your baby even if he or she is older than six months. As a matter of fact, many sleep coaches believe nine months is the sweet spot for parents in terms of training their babies to sleep through the night independently.
Before learning the baby sleep training method
Before you start searching for the best and effective baby sleep training techniques to help your baby sleep on their own, you need to make sure you are following a regular baby’s sleep schedule and ensuring you put them to bed at a consistent time every night.
Here are the most effective baby sleep training methods you should consider:
Check and Console
This method is the most common and effective. It is also often referred to as the Ferber method, interval method, graduated extinction, or progressive waiting.
The administration of this method varies from parent to parent, though the core concepts remain the same: check on your infant baby at set intervals but avoid feeding or rocking them to sleep because that would not mean they are falling asleep independently.
After finishing up your bedtime routine, place your infant baby in his or her crib and leave the room for a specific amount of time. Go back in and smoothly take to the baby as you pat or rub him or her. This method is perfect for babies as old as seven months since younger babies would still require your presence so they know they are not alone in the room.
Continue this living and checking, as you increase the amount of time between the intervals until you reach around 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and then maintain it until they completely fall asleep. In case they wake up, just start the check and console once again.
This method could take as short as one week to work, but the progress can be witnessed after just a few nights.
Sleep training experts recommend keeping a training log for self-reassurance.
This baby sleep training method requires a lot of commitment and discipline since it is very gradual. Start with prepping your baby for bed, but rather than leaving the room, sit in a chair next to the baby (the crib). Leave the room when the baby falls asleep, but every time he or she wakes up, sit back on the chair until they fall asleep again. As time pass by, move the chair further and further from the crib until you are completely out of the room.
Extinction or cry it out method
This method helps you extinguish the crying behavior, rather than responding to it. Just like the first two methods, start with prepping your baby for bed and put them to the crib while they are still awake. Say goodnight and walk out of the room. As a response to your leaving the room, the baby will burst into cries. While there will be a lot of crying at first, it is just short term. The crying may last for only three nights, but every night will be less and less.
Pick up, put down and shush-pat
Pick up, put down and shush-pat is a baby sleep training method that is suitable for babies seven months younger. Just stay with your baby in the room without attending to the baby or helping them fall asleep. For instance, you can simply stand by the crib and occasionally shush them, apply pressure on them or pat their tummy to calm and reassure them.
Alternatively, you can let them fuss for a while, but pick them up when they start to escalate and calm them. Put them back in the crib before they fall asleep.
This technique includes putting your infant baby down in the crib at the exact time they usually start to doze off and making that their new sleeping schedule for several nights, and then slowly moving it to an earlier time. For instance, if you usually put your baby down at say 7.30 pm, but they usually cry or fuss in the crib for about fifteen or twenty minutes until they are completely asleep; it means that 7.45 to 8 pm is their correct bedtime. You can figure out your baby’s natural bedtime by keeping a sleeping log for a few nights.
The trick with this baby sleep training method is to very consistent and dedicated to moving the bedtime for your child earlier.
Bedtime-routine fading is closely related to the above method. However, with this method, you maintain whatever method you were using before, but reducing the amount of time you spend doing it until you no longer need to do it.
This method is perfect for minimizing crying if you can sustain it.
This technique involves letting the baby fall asleep then waking him or her to help them learn how to fall asleep independently.
According to pediatrician and author Dr. Harvey Karp or The Happiest Baby on the Block, this method is the most effective one if you want your baby to learn the art of falling asleep without your help. He says: “When you have a little baby, it’s ok to rock them to sleep and nurse them to sleep… However, they will get dependent on that.
You need to feed your baby, swaddle your baby, turn on the white noise, and rock your baby to sleep. Then slide them into the crib or bassinet and you wake them up – you tickle their feet or something and you wake them a little bit. They are drowsy; they are kind of drunk from the milk a little bit.
They are swaddled; they have white noise, so they tend to fall back asleep in five to 10 seconds. Or at most, you jiggle the crib a little bit to get them back to sleep. In those 10 seconds, they are learning how to put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night without your help.”
The technique you choose matters very little than the bedtime routine. You need to be consistent with the baby sleep schedule for whichever technique you choose to work. Also, try to consider such small things as baby sleep position as well as your baby’s daytime naps and feeds. If you put all these into consideration, baby sleep training will yield effects sooner rather than later, and your baby will be sleeping through the night like a pro within a few days.
Last but not least, you need to have confidence in your baby, as this is part and parcel of baby sleep training. Get the whole family to on-board to help with this endeavor and always remember that sleep training will never work if you don’t do it fully.
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