Sleep training is a method used by parents to help their babies learn to sleep through the night and establish a consistent sleep routine. It can be a valuable tool for both infants and parents, as it promotes better sleep patterns and overall well-being. Here are some key points to consider when it comes to sleep-training babies:
When to Start Sleep Training
Pediatricians typically recommend starting sleep training between 4 to 6 months of age when babies begin to develop a more predictable sleep pattern. Before this age, babies may still need nighttime feedings.
Sleep Training Methods
There are various sleep training methods to choose from ,we will discuss them one by one:
You want to check on your baby at regular or preset intervals but never feed or rock them to sleep as that would not make them sleep on their own.
After completing your baby’s bedtime routine, place them in their crib, exit the room, and wait for a specific duration, perhaps starting with just a minute. Then, reenter the room and provide reassurance through gentle words like “Mommy loves you” or soothing touch, like a gentle rub or pat. It’s generally recommended not to pick up the baby during this process.
It is more suitable for babies aged seven months and older as younger infants may require a continuous parental presence to ensure they feel secure and not abandoned, especially if they’ve become quite distressed.
Continue this routine, leaving the room and gradually increasing the time intervals between visits, eventually reaching intervals of about 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process until your baby falls asleep. If your baby wakes up during the night, restart the check-and-console intervals.
This sleep training technique may take up to a week to yield significant results, although you may notice improvements after a few nights. Many experts recommend maintaining a sleep-training log to help track progress and provide reassurance. It’s important to note that some parents find that entering the room during these intervals can agitate the baby further, leading them to consider more direct Method known as “extinction” or “full extinction.
Cry it out or extinction method
This method is used to help babies learn to sleep through the night without parental intervention it allows the baby to self-soothe gently and gradually with no tears Key points of this method
- Goal of Extinction Method: The primary goal of the extinction method is to extinguish or eliminate a specific behavior, in this case, a baby’s crying during bedtime or night awakenings. The method involves not responding to the crying.
- Routine Bedtime: Parents are advised to go through their usual bedtime routine with the baby, put them in their crib while they are still awake, say goodnight, and then leave the room. The initial night may involve frequent crying episodes. It is recommended to wait for one or two wake-ups before going back into the room. If the baby wakes up after midnight, it’s considered okay to briefly comfort the baby and then leave again. You can give scheduled nighttime feeds if the baby still requires them.
- Controversial Nature: The extinction method is described as the most controversial among various sleep-training methods. Experts and parents may have differing opinions on its appropriateness and effectiveness.
- Concerns about Crying: Many parents are hesitant to use the extinction method due to concerns about the amount of crying involved. Experts acknowledge that there may be significant crying initially, but it tends to decrease over time. Parents should give it a week before determining whether the method is effective.
- Expected Results: The extinction method can lead to significant improvements in the baby’s sleep patterns by night three or four. The method is described as having a short-term phase of increased crying, followed by a gradual improvement in the baby’s sleep behavior.
Pick up Put down Method
For infants under the age of seven months, this approach involves staying in the room but not directly assisting them to fall asleep. For instance, you can stand by their crib and use gentle techniques like shushing, patting their tummy, or applying soothing pressure to provide comfort and reassurance.
Alternatively, you can allow them to fuss for a short while, intervening when their distress escalates by picking them up briefly to calm them before placing them back into the crib.
While this method can work well for younger babies, after six or seven months, your presence might make your baby more upset, and picking them up and putting them back down will likely be too much stimulation.
This gradual sleep-training technique demands a high level of parental discipline. In this method, after your baby’s bedtime preparations, instead of leaving the room, you sit in a chair placed beside the crib. Once your baby falls asleep, you can exit the room, but whenever they wake up during the night, you return to the chair and stay there until they fall back asleep. Throughout several nights, you gradually move the chair farther and farther away from the crib until you’re no longer in the room.
The advantage of this method is a parent’s continuous presence, providing comfort to the baby. However, a drawback is that some crying may still occur, and the baby may notice the parent observing them cry, making it challenging to maintain consistency with the approach.
This method is not recommended by experts as having a parent in the room but not actively responding to the baby’s needs can be confusing and, depending on the baby’s age and developmental stage may introduce too much stimulation. This level of stimulation can lead to the baby becoming overly agitated, to the point where they struggle to self-soothe effectively.
Choosing a Sleep Training Method
It’s important to note that sleep-training methods, including extinction, can be a matter of personal choice for parents. Different approaches may work better for different families, and it’s essential to consider the baby’s developmental stage and individual needs when deciding on a sleep-training method. Consulting with a pediatrician or sleep specialist is also recommended when implementing sleep-training techniques to ensure they are safe and appropriate for the child’s age and health.
Sleep Training Tips
- Establish a Bedtime Routine: Create a calming bedtime routine that signals to your baby that it’s time to sleep. This could include activities like a warm bath, gentle rocking, reading a book, or singing a lullaby.
- Consistency is Key: Whichever method you choose, consistency is essential. Select a method that aligns with your parenting style and your baby’s temperament. Stick to the same routine and approach every night, so your baby knows what to expect.
- Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure that the baby’s sleep environment is safe and comfortable. The room should be dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature (around 68-72°F or 20-22°C). Use a firm mattress and remove any suffocation hazards.
- Gradual Transition: If your baby is used to being rocked or nursed to sleep, consider gradually reducing these sleep associations. This helps your baby learn to fall asleep independently.
- Be Responsive: While sleep training involves allowing your baby to self-soothe to some extent, it’s crucial to respond to your baby’s needs when necessary, especially if they’re crying excessively or seem distressed.
- Monitor Sleep Patterns: Keep a sleep diary to track your baby’s sleep patterns, as this can help you identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to the sleep training plan. Many experts recommend maintaining a sleep-training log to help track progress and provide reassurance.
- Be Patient: Sleep training can be challenging and may take some time. Be patient and understanding with your baby’s progress. Every baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.
- Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from pediatricians or sleep experts if you encounter difficulties or have concerns about your baby.
Remember that sleep training should be a gradual and gentle process, and it’s important to prioritize your baby’s comfort and well-being throughout. Every baby is different, so what works for one may not work for another’s sleep habits. Trust your instincts as a parent, and be flexible in adapting your approach to your baby’s needs and temperament. Ultimately, the goal of sleep training is to help both you and your baby get the rest you need for a healthy and happy family life.