Sleep training a baby
Have you ever thought that broken sleep is one of the worst things of having a baby? If so, let me share with you the best tips for sleep training a baby.
First, I would like to start with a disclaimer, before delving into sleep training a baby.
Dummies and sleep training a baby
First things first, you have to decide whether dummies are for you. I personally do not have a problem with dummies, we tried, but our boys just couldn’t keep them in. Eventually, we got fed up and said that we wouldn’t keep putting them in anymore, so we stopped.
Now our boys are thumb suckers, we get a lot of negativity from people about it but I don’t mind because they used it to self-soothe, which made sleep training a baby possible. At five months they were sleeping through the night, so I was thankful for the thumb.
Let me be clear, on paper, sleep training a baby looks amazing, but in practice, some find it difficult to establish a sleep schedule without a lot of crying.
When to start sleep training a baby?
A good starting point to start is at two months old. However, if a baby is premature, then start two months after their meant to be due date. E.g. my boys were three months premature, so I started them at five months.
How to know if sleep training a baby is right for you?
Hearing your baby cry continuously is HARD, especially when they suffer with colic or reflux. However, when compared to sleeplessness of a parent, crying is not that hard. If you are tired of being sleep deprived, then sleep training is definitely for you.
What things are IMPORTANT in order to be successful in sleep training a baby?
A baby’s daytime naps, determine how well they sleep at night. If a baby has 3 naps in the day, make the first and last one short: max 45min. That might mean waking them. The midday nap is the most important one and is the most restorative, and should be 2hrs.
If your baby only has 2 naps, then omit the last one
• Fresh air
Going outside with your baby every day helps to develop their circadian rhythm. Time outside daily in natural day light is key to helping them to sleep longer. Make sure they are wrapped up if in colder months.
• Cool room temperature and a dark room at night.
So that the sleep hormone melatonin can be released.
• White noise/any sort of noise.
This point is not essential. However, is very helpful if you want your baby to not stir or be woken at any random sound they hear.
• Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
This is key when sleep training a baby, because it helps them to understand what’s coming next. Our bedtime routine was about 30minutes. It consisted of bath time, short session of baby massage with calm music playing in the background. There is no set rule what to do in your routine. Whatever you choose to do, consistency is key.
❗A final word on naps: the aim is to ensure your baby gets the right amount of sleep for their age. If a baby is either over or under tired then sleep training most likely won’t work for them. Make sure you have naps DOWN first before you start.
Once these 5 things have been established, then, you are ready for sleep training a baby.
What are the main aims of sleep training a baby?
To get your baby to sleep through the night and that is done by observing your baby’s ques and put baby down for bed when they are drowsy, before they fall asleep in your arms or on your breast. The aim is to get them to self soothe, rather than rely on you.
How to actually do it, I’m ready?!
Here are 3 different ways to deal with crying that promotes self-soothing.
As parents, you have to decide which method is most suitable for your family. It is not one size fits all.
Some parents combine these methods. You may need to try each one before you find what works for your family.
Check and comfort
When you hear a baby cry, promptly appear and replace the dummy, gently rock the cot, massage or start shushing them. Try not to pick them up, feed or talk to them.
If at all possible, it is best if the fathers do this because babies can smell their mamas and may, therefore, become more awake by this.
Controlled crying (graduated extinction)
When your baby cries, pause and wait for 5 minutes before going in to soothe them.
The delayed response in this method means that your baby will become more upset. Therefore, your soothing methods will be different. You should do whatever will calm your baby back down to a drowsy but awake state. Sing, feed, rock or pick them up.
In the beginning, your baby might fall asleep in your arm and that’s okay, even though the aim is to put them back down drowsy but awake, this will eventually come.
If when put down or after, there is more crying you then add an additional 5 minutes on to the first 5, wait for 10 minutes and then repeat the previous step.
For every time they start crying, add an additional 5 minutes. The number of minutes is not needed to be 5, just a number that gives a delay that you can be consistent with.
The expectation is that eventually, your baby will fall asleep during one of your delays.
This method may take a few nights or a few weeks, but BE CONSISTENT!
The best age to use this strategy is after 3 or 4 months (post due date).
This method means open-ended crying at night. You ignore the crying without a time limit, as long as you know that it is time for sleep and not feed.
In the beginning, your baby will fall asleep from wearing themselves out crying, but this process teaches them pretty quickly how to self-soothe.
Some parents are wary of this method because they are afraid of harming their baby by letting them cry.
What worked for us
I already knew before trying it that I wouldn’t do the crying-it-out method for 2 reasons.
1. I couldn’t, not comfort whoever was crying, I felt it was too cruel because they had already had to go through so much as babies in the hospital. #prematurelife
2. The crying noise would drive me insane. I hate crying with all of my being, but this was talking about open-ended crying. NO CHANCE!
We first started with the check and console method, but soon noticed that it wasn’t as effective as we would have liked.
We then moved on to the controlled crying method. This was hard at first because you just want to comfort your baby. I sucked it up and we started with 5-minute increments.
I honestly have to say that it worked. They NEVER went past 14 minutes (that’s only going in and soothing twice). The whole process only took about 2 weeks.
I really hope that you find sleep training a baby a success.
Things that may change things up is colic, silent reflux and general sickness. That definitely makes things harder but not impossible. One of my sons suffered with colic and it was a nightmare. Watching him suffer in pain was heart breaking. What got us through it, was baby massage. I researched the benefits of it and swiftly learned how to massage him specifically to help with colic and had great results. We used this massage oil. Although sleepless nights can be overwhelming, have no fear because sleep training a baby instructions are here.
Babies are absolutely wonderful, once they start sleeping through the night and you get your well-needed sleep in order to recharge and start again the next day, you start to see even more wonderful things happening on your motherhood journey. I am really excited for you…