Consistency in sleep training is what flour is to a cake: an essential ingredient that ensures structure and prevents everything from falling apart.
If there’s one thing sleep-deprived parents wish for, it’s a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, infants sometimes make that wish impossible.
They wake up in the middle of the night, wanting to be fed, changed, or comforted.
As they reach an age when they should be sleeping soundly throughout the night, many of them just continue being bad sleepers.
Although to many parents, this seems to be a problem that will never go away, I want to offer a word of comfort and say that things can get better.
And this is how: by sleep training your child and remaining consistent!
Step #1: Find a sleep training method that works for you and your family
There are a few different methods that can help you stabilize your little one’s naturally chaotic sleep pattern.
Many of these methods are developed by pediatricians or infant sleep experts, and each method requires a different amount of participation from the parent. Some methods involve crying, while others discourage it.
The Cry-it-out Method
One of the most popular sleep training methods that involve crying is the cry-it-out method. Your tasks would be to establish a bedtime routine, cuddle your child before bed, kiss them goodnight, shut the door, and not respond to his cries. Eventually, your little one will get tired from crying and soothe himself to sleep.
Some parents find this method too painful and can’t control the urge to run to their child when he/she wakes up at night.
However, this is also the method that can teach your child how to fall asleep on his own the fastest. Most parents who have applied the cry-it-out method say that you can sleep train your child in about three days. So, although it’s stressful for the short-term, it can lead to better sleep for the entire family in the long term.
The Ferber Method
There’s also a gentler sleep training technique to the cry-it-out method known as the Ferber Method. It’s a graduated approach to sleep training that involves gradually increasing the amount of time you allow your baby to cry alone in his crib. For example, for the first few nights, you respond to your child’s cries quickly, and slowly increase the amount of time you allow the baby to cry until eventually, he learns how to soothe himself.
The Fading Method
The Fading Method is similar to the Ferber Method, as it also includes gradually decreasing your involvement in your child’s sleep. The difference is that with the Fading Method, you start by being present in your child’s room, sitting on a chair, or standing next to the crib. For the first few nights, you only move a few inches away from your child. As nights progress, you increase your physical distance to your child.
Step #2: Establish a good bedtime routine
In the Guide to Your Child’s Sleep book, the American Academy of Pediatrics says,“it’s almost impossible to overstress the importance of a calm, orderly bedtime routine.”
The truth is that your baby’s sleep rhythm is chaotic. He has just arrived in this world and needs time and help to adjust to the day and night schedule. As a result, he wakes up frequently at night, has trouble falling asleep on his own, and only sleeps in 45-minute intervals.
That’s why establishing a calm and orderly bedtime routine can help.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or complicated. You can give him a bath, change his diapers, put on his pajamas, read a bedtime story, etc. The bedtime routine will provide cues to your child that it’s time to stop being active and start getting sleepy.
With each activity, your child will get more relaxed and ready to fall asleep. The trick is to put him down while he’s drowsy but still awake. Why? Because when he wakes up in the middle of the night, instead of feeling disoriented, he will soothe himself back to sleep.
Step 3: Be consistent
Whether you choose to leave your baby to cry it out or decide to try the gentler Ferber technique, the end goal of each method is to help your child develop techniques to self-soothe, so that if he wakes up, he can put himself back to sleep.
Whichever method you choose and however your establish your bedtime routine, consistency will be a major part.
In fact, all of the sleep training techniques rely heavily on parents being consistent. The goal is to create a series of cues to help your baby understand that it’s time to transition from happy, playful day hours to quiet sleepy hours.
Why is consistency in sleep training so important?
Consistency in sleep training is so important because your child needs some time to learn a new skill. That’s what sleep training is: teaching your baby a new skill.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes: how long did it take you to pick up a new skill like driving a car or learning a language? Probably it took more than a few hours.
Your bedtime routine should be consistent from day to day, starting at the same time and going in the same order. For example, if your bedtime routine starts at 7 p.m. and includes a bath, massage, reading a story, and saying a final goodnight, then stick to it.
Don’t change the hours or the order of the routine.
That’s what you need to do every night, for at least a few weeks, or at least until your baby learns the hack of putting himself to sleep.
To ensure you remain consistent, start sleep training your child at a time that’s most convenient for you. Avoid scheduling it around major events in your baby’s life, like teething or transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed.
What many parents do is they begin on a Friday to take advantage of the weekend. Many parents also use their vacation days to dedicate their full attention to their child without worrying about job-related tasks.
Having a hard time staying consistent?
Staying consistent is the pillar of sleep training. But it’s also the part with which parents struggle the most.
If you’re one of those parents that find it challenging to keep up with a consistent sleep training schedule due to doing it alone of feeling confused, I’m here to help.
My clients find it helpful and so much easier to be consistent with their sleep training efforts when they’re not doing it alone.