How To Sleep Train Your Baby
It is, indeed, exhausting to have a child, especially when training them to become independent sleepers. This may even come as a shock for new parents.
Welcome to parenthood, by the way!
But, breaking your baby's bad sleeping habits is one of the most important things you can do for your child, and yourself, as well.
This post will help you discover and learn all the what’s, when's, where’s, whys, and how’s of sleep training. So, if you want to learn how to sleep train your baby, you have come to the right place.
All About Sleep Training
As parents to infants, sleepless nights have become a norm. But, did you know that babies of three to four months of age can already sleep throughout the night?
Yes, they can be “independent sleepers” after a few weeks of being dependent on their moms and dads. The thing is - this can only happen when poor sleeping habits are eliminated, and this is where sleep training comes in.
To simply put it, sleep training teaches your baby to fall asleep on their own, without any help from you as a parent. This means that when they are put down awake, your child can drift off to dreamland without being nursed, swayed, rocked, or cuddled with the most comfortable swaddle.
When Should You Start It
You can start to sleep train your baby as young as three months old. But, on an average note, experts recommend it when infants reach between four to six months of age.
As explained, this period is the so-called “sweet spot” for them because they are old enough to complete a full six to eight hours of sleep. This is also the time when they can sleep on their own without the need to eat and the perfect period when they have yet to associate their sleeping times to your comfort and touch.
How Long Should You Train Your Baby
To the surprise of many parents, especially the newbies, sleep training does not take too much time if done effectively and properly. After three to four nights of utilizing the appropriate sleep train method for your baby, they can already be independent sleepers.
Keep in mind, though, that this does not apply to all methods and babies. While some may work for others, this does not mean that it will work best, as well, on you and your baby’s case.
Here are the six most popular sleep-training methods and techniques that you may want to try:
The “Cry It Out” method is also known as the “extinction” technique. It involves putting the baby to bed and letting them sleep on their own as they cry until they drift off. This means, despite hearing them out loud, you will not go back to their room until it is time to get up the next morning.
The most common misconception about sleep training is that it only involves this method, which is letting them cry and not going back to their room to comfort them. But, the truth is that CIO is just one of the many methods of sleep-training.
While this may seem harsh, the “Cry It Out” technique is only hard on the parents’ end. Even so, letting your baby cry it all out to fall asleep on their own works in just a few days. You have to be consistent, though, as this is the key.
This video of a mom, wherein she documents how she sleep-trained her baby in less than a week using the CIO technique may help.
Ferberization is another popular sleep-training method that many parents utilize. This ideal for moms and dads who find the CIO technique too harsh for their babies.
The Ferber method is a type of CIO or extinction technique that is much easier on the parents’ parts. It involves allowing the baby to cry for a set period of time before checking and consoling them, without cuddling or rocking them out of their cribs or beds.
This is the reason why this method is also called the “Check and Console” technique. After putting the baby on their bed and making them comfortable, say placing a pair of novelty socks to keep them warm, you leave them in their room.
Once the baby starts crying, you allow them to do it for an interval before going back to their room to comfort them. Remember to gradually increase the time intervals, though, as this is part of the sleep training. This will also eventually decrease your presence in the baby’s room, allowing them to settle down on their own.
The chair method is a “gradual sleep-training” technique. Experts and experienced moms assert that it may take 14 days to complete the whole process and succeed.
This also requires a lot of discipline on the parent’s part. This is because the chair method involves sitting beside your child as they try to sleep but refusing to pick them up or console them as they cry.
You will sit next to the bed until the baby falls asleep. With each night passing, you move the chair further away until you reach the door, and eventually, allowing them to sleep independently. By that time, it means that you succeed in sleep-training your child.
The advantage of the chair method is that you will be there, present while your baby is crying, even if consoling is out of the equation. The main drawback, however, lies in the baby’s end, crying more as they can see you. This is why this sleep-training technique requires more discipline, time, and consistency.
The bedtime-routine fading technique is a method that takes more time to accomplish. The reason being is that in this process, you continue whatever you are doing or using to help your baby fall asleep.
Say, for instance, you rock and nurse them to sleep after putting on their favorite sleepwear. You stick to this for a few days up to a week and then decrease the amount of time you spend doing these things the following week. You gradually decrease them until, “in theory,” you no longer have to assist your baby to fall asleep.
While this is great to minimize the crying during bedtime, many parents seemingly find it difficult to sustain. This is because it takes too much time to fully sleep-train the baby.
Check this material to understand further how it works and why some parents recommend this method.
Do not be confused with Bedtime-Routine Fading and Bedtime-Hour Fading methods. These are two different sleep-training techniques that may work for you and your child.
This process involves putting your baby to sleep at the “natural” time they end up dozing off. Once you figure out the usual exact hour they tend to go to sleep, meaning including all hours or minutes of crying, you move their sleeping period to that same time the following week. Consequently, you gradually move up their sleeping period to a much earlier hour.
For example, you put your baby down to their bed at 7 in the evening with their long-sleeve jumpsuit.
But, babies do not initially fall asleep right to the exact hour you put them to bed. In most cases, they spend ten to 20 minutes or more crying until they drift off. Accordingly, 7:20 to much later period is the “natural” time of their sleep.
Upon discovering this, move the whole bedtime routine ten to 20 minutes later after a few nights. So, instead of putting the baby to bed at 7, you do this at 7:20 or 7:30.
After doing so for a few nights, move the whole routine 15 minutes earlier. Continue to adjust the period until your baby adjusts their “natural” bedtime.
Pick Up-Put Down Method
The Pick Up-Put Down sleep-training method is a common act that many parents do today. It is simply going through the baby’s usual bedtime routine, and putting them down to bed “drowsy but awake.”
When the baby cries, wait for a few seconds or minutes to check whether they calm down on their own and immediately dozes off. If not, pick them up again and soothe them until they get drowsy, enough to sleep on their once placed on their bed.
Repeat the entire process until the baby falls completely asleep. However, this method of training requires a lot of patience, considering that you will be awake, as well, most of the baby’s sleeping hours.
To learn more about the effectiveness and reliability of this sleep-training technique, this quick video may help with the full explanation. You will also learn some of the most usual questions that many parents have in accordance with the Pick Up-Put Down method.
Best Sleep-Training Tips
Each of the methods works. But, as pointed out, the process, as well as the range of training period will vary depending on several factors and conditions.
To ensure the effectiveness of the sleep-training technique that you have chosen, these are some tips that you may want to try and apply:
Establish Sleep and Bedtime Routines
As early as possible, you have to establish a clear and consistent bedtime routine. A regimen before sleeping sends the signal that it is already time for bed. This is why it is essential to follow it, especially during the sleep-training period.
Make sure to have a quick routine, as well. This may include a short bath, massage, change of swaddles, gentle rocking, and a full feeding period.
Stick To A Specific Amount of Nap Times
Irregular schedules of naps may alter the whole night time sleeping period. Accordingly, it is crucial to set a specific amount of time for daytime naps.
Experts suggest that naps should be at least 30 to 45 minutes. It should not exceed more than three hours, as well.
It is worth noting, however, that it may take time to develop a specific amount of time for napping, and napping itself. So, you should avoid stressing yourself out as this will not help you or your baby.
Encourage Full Feedings
Feeding times may take in between 20 to 40 minutes. However, many babies can get tired right after the first few minutes because of the comfort of their environment, especially if you put them on comfortable sleepwear, like a onesie.
While this is okay, at times, always ensure to encourage full feedings. Make them get into the habit of completing their feeding periods without falling asleep. This will naturally help them get to sleep after the entire feed, and throughout the whole night.
Put Baby Down Awake
When sleep-training your baby, make sure to put them down on the bed or crib awake. If not, then there is no sense because you would have allowed them to sleep with your assistance.
As much as possible, place them comfortably in their sleeping room or area when they are already drowsy. Upon doing so, continue with your chosen sleep-training method that you think will suit best your and your baby’s conditions.
Maintain Consistency In Sleeping Environment
As noted, consistency is always the key. This applies to all aspects of the sleep-training process, including all related factors. These include the sleeping area and environment.
As a parent, you have to ensure that your baby is getting their utmost comfort in their beds and cribs. Clear out anything that will cause inconvenience, irritation, or anything that may disturb your baby’s sleeping period.
For more helpful and informative tips, this video, featuring an experienced pediatrician discussing sleep training for babies and infants, may help you in your goals.
Do You Need Doctor’s Guidance?
You can read and learn a lot from reading blogs and informative articles on the internet, including this one. But, despite having all the knowledge, never hesitate to consult or talk to your baby’s pediatrician. With the proper information and reliable guidance, you will succeed in sleep-training your baby.
In the case that you want to try it out first on your own, you may do so. But, experts in the field suggest that you share your thoughts and concerns with the doctor if the sleep training does not work even after consistently doing it for two weeks.
Whatever the case, though, there is no wrong time to call your doctor.
The Science Behind Sleep Training: Myths vs Facts
Sleep train has been around for quite some time now. Every experienced parent knows this for a fact.
However, despite the apparency of helpful resources, especially in the digital age, there are still several myths that many individuals believe as truths about sleep training. Here are some points that you may want to check to understand this dynamic further:
Myth: Sleep Training Is The Same As “Crying It Out”
Sleep training has obtained a bad reputation among many parents. Unfortunately, several moms and dads think that to sleep-train a baby is to let them cry it out all night long until they fall asleep.
The truth is - this is only one of the methods to sleep train a baby. As emphasized in today’s scientific literature, sleep training is an “umbrella term.” It refers to various approaches to train babies to fall asleep on their own and become independent sleepers.
Aside from the Cry It Out technique, there are a lot more other methods that parents may utilize to sleep-train their baby. The most common ones are already listed above.
Fact: Gentler Options Work, Too
Another common misconception about sleep training is that the methods are all harsh. Although the training process is indeed challenging, and daunting even for some, other approaches are gentle, too. Some examples include the Pick Up-Put Down and the Bedtime-Routine Fading.
Experts and scholars found out, however, that there are babies that do not receive sleep-training well. This means that there are cases when no existing method works.
Accordingly, it goes to show that sleep-training is a “personalized formula” between the baby and the parents. There are some infants who may find wearing sleeveless rompers more comfortable while sleeping, making the sleep-training more effective. But, this does not apply to every child. Therefore, at the end of the day, moms and dads know what is best for their own children.
Myth: Results From Sleep Training Stick For Good
Sleep-training methods are helpful among parents. Many have already attested to the techniques’ effectiveness and reliability.
But, as mentioned, it is still on a case-to-case basis. While the methods may work for some, others may encounter a more different experience than the rest.
In any case, though, research and studies claimed that the results of sleep training do not stick for good. Although it may help for quite some time, the dynamic may still change because there are tons of factors at work. So, do not expect “miracles” when it comes to the long-term results of sleep training.
Myth: Sleep Training May Cause Harm To Babies
Sleep training a baby is not harmful. Studies and research found out that there are no adverse or damaging effects when babies are sleep-trained, in whatever method was utilized.
This is a common myth that many parents worry over. But, based on scientific data, there are no bases to support the assertions that sleep training causes negative impacts on a baby’s emotional and mental health.
In addition to this, scholars and experts pointed out that there are no long-term differences found between babies who were sleep-trained and not. Therefore, sleep training your child has no harmful effects on the behavior, sleep, emotional and mental health, and even the relationship between the child and the parents.
Why You Should Sleep Train
So, after learning all the necessary information, you are left with one question: “Should I sleep train my baby?”
As the parent, you are the only person who can tell whether this is the best for your baby and yourself. But, keep in mind that making them independent sleepers is beneficial to their health and overall development.
The reason being is that when you sleep train your baby, you are allowing them to provide themselves a much better quality of sleep, and sleep is an essential aspect of their holistic health and growth.
Here are some of the advantages and benefits of sleep training your baby to help you know why this may be an essential thing for you and your child:
Supports Behavioral Health
Children who sleep better at night on their own are more active, pleasant, and energetic during the day. Much like any adults, getting a night of quality sleep makes them more patient and less irritable.
Quality, healthy sleep has positive impacts on their neurological development. It also plays an integral part in alleviating various behavioral problems.
This is why parents should train their kids to obtain healthy sleep on their own. Accordingly, improvements in behavioral health are one of the underlying benefits of sleep-training your baby.
Improves Brain Health
Sleep is essential and necessary for brain health. It is one of the most crucial elements for brain growth and maturation, which all rapidly takes place in childhood and infancy. Accordingly, sleep training is one of the best ways to help your baby achieve better cognitive functions, like learning abilities.
Each and every day is a new opportunity for babies and infants to learn more about their environment. Learning exercises their brain, causing maturation. This is why sleep is essential as it reinforces the brain to imprint these learnings from their day-to-day.
Here is a video explaining the overall importance of sleep training.
All in all, sleep training your baby is challenging. It may even be daunting for some parents.
But, you have to see through it, especially if you want the best for your baby. Besides, there is no harm in doing this as science has already proven that there are no adverse effects to sleep training.
On the other hand, the benefits and advantages of sleep training may all be great. However, this does not mean that you should force to sleep train your baby just because of it.
Ensure that you have already exhausted your options before making a decision. Sleep train your baby because you know that this will help you and your baby.