It’s 3 a.m, and you can’t keep your eyes open any longer. Your baby, on the other hand, is wide awake and doesn’t show any signs of drowsiness. Exhausted, you think to yourself: “when will my baby learn to sleep independently so that I can get my much-needed rest?”
Good news! You can teach your baby how to sleep on his own as soon as you feel comfortable with the help of the tips below and hiring a sleep consultant!
The thought of sleep training your baby can seem a little overwhelming when you don’t know where to start. That’s why in this post, I’ll be answering the most common questions parents may have about sleep training their baby.
What Is Sleep Training?
Many parents struggle with sleep training their children. Their newborn, infant or even toddler might be waking up often at night, or only fall asleep in their arms.
Sleep training has helped a myriad of families establish excellent sleep habits early on. In a nutshell, sleep training is the process of teaching your baby how to sleep on his own.
For some babies, sleep training is easier, while for others, it might be trickier. Luckily, there are some tricks you can learn that will help you soothe your baby.
When Should I Start Sleep Training a Baby?
This is a question many parents ask when it comes to sleep training their baby. There is a general assumption to hold off on sleep training until the baby is four months old. When your baby reaches the age of four months, he has gained sufficient weight, he can sleep for longer hours, and he can self-soothe more easily. However, this is a myth. You can start teaching them to fall asleep independently as early as six weeks. However, before you begin on your sleep training journey, you want to make sure that your baby is healthy, and he’s in a good weight range. Sleep training does not mean withholding feeds, in fact you can feed your baby as often as you would like or the doctor recommends. The concept here is that after they are fed, burped and changed, they are able to put themselves to sleep without any sleep props such as feeding to sleep, rocking or bouncing.
It’s important to note that although it’s recommended to begin with sleep training when your baby is four months old, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start when your baby is younger or older. You can sleep train your child at every age.
Apart from the baby-side of things, the best time to begin with sleep training also depends on your readiness as parents. You should only engage in sleep training when you’re 100% sure that it’s the right thing for you and your family and you can commit to being consistent.
If your baby is sleeping well throughout the night without intervention, then there might not be a reason to sleep train your baby.
However, if he wakes up many times during the night and if you feel exhausted and unable to do your best job as a parent, then perhaps it’s time to think about sleep training.
What Are the Best Sleep Training Methods?
There are several sleep training methods of teaching your baby how to sleep independently, including the cry it out, the fading, and the no tears method. The best method for you depends on which sleep method you believe your baby will accept and what you feel comfortable doing.
If you notice that your baby resists the method or that his behavior changed for the worse, stop and wait several weeks before you begin again or try a different baby sleeping method.
How Do You Prepare for Sleep Training?
Some of the best tips for how to sleep train a baby include:
Find a week in your calendar when you will be able to devote a great deal of time to sleep training your child. And once you find time in your calendar, the most important thing is consistency. This is essential for teaching your baby how to sleep independently. Follow a regular schedule and put him to bed at a consistent time each night. The more consistent you are with your schedule, the easier it will be for your child to get used to the routine.
Tips #2: Put Him Down When He’s Drowsy
You should put your baby down into his crib when he’s drowsy but awake. Even if he cries a little bit, this will help him get used to it. Give him a gentle pat and then leave the room without waiting for him to fall asleep.
Tip #3: Put Your Baby Down in His Crib Every Time
To help your baby get into a routine, try to put him down into his crib every time he’s taking a nap. Strollers and swings are nice, but you want him to learn how to sleep independently in his crib.
Tip #4: Make Sure He’s Tired
Before you put him down to sleep, make sure he’s been up an appropriate amount of time. If your child is under- or overtired, he might have trouble falling asleep. A sleep consultant can guide you exactly what your child’s wake times should be depending on his age and personality.
Tip #5: Establish a Calming Bedtime Routine
Another advice is to establish a calming bedtime routine with your child. It can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes or more. A good bedtime routine will help your child wind down and get ready for sleep. Baby bedtime routines often include a feed, bath, massage, lullabies, and a story.
Tip #6: Hire a Sleep Consultant
Sleep issues affect countless parents around the world, but there’s a solution. Many parents have found help by hiring a certified sleep consultant that can customize a sleeping plan for your baby. As every baby is unique and has his or her own temperament, there’s no one-fits-all solution that works for all babies. By working with a sleep consultant, you’ll get a program designed just for you, based on your schedule, your baby, and your home environment.
What Does the Research Say?
One recent study from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, that was published in the journal Pediatrics, studied 43 sets of parents, with babies between 6 and 16 months. They divided the parents into three control groups. The first group applied the cry it out approach, the second applied the fading method, while the third group didn’t apply any sleep training method.
After three months, the study found that:
- Babies in the cry it out group fell asleep 15 minutes faster than babies in the no method group.
- Babies in the fading group fell asleep 12 minutes faster than babies in the no method group.
There are no studies that suggest sleep training has negative consequences on a child’s health. However, there’s a lot of evidence of the negative effects of sleep deprivation, including depression, inattentiveness, ADHD-related disorders and marital issues.
Having a baby that wakes up many times throughout the night can be hard for both parents. Lack of sleep, exhaustion, drowsiness, and depression are all possible side-effects of not getting the rest you desperately need as parents.
Sleep training is a recommended option as it can help you and your child form positive bonds and develop healthy sleeping habits.
Overall, when it comes to sleep training, remember:
- Babies can be sleep trained at any age as long as there are no medical conditions and they are steadily gaining weight.
- There are several methods of teaching your baby how to sleep independently, including the cry it out, the fading, and the no tears method.
- The best method for you depends on which sleep method you believe your baby will accept and what you feel comfortable doing.
- Consistency is key when teaching your baby how to sleep independently.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that every child and every family is different, you should do what works for your family’s needs.