Sleep Training Your Baby: Methods, Tips, And When To Start
Want to give your little one the gift of a good night’s sleep? Practice sleep training to teach them how to fall asleep on their own and stay that way without all the crying that can interrupt your nighttime rest.
Here, we’ll discuss various methods of effective sleep training and offer tips to make the process easier.
What Is Sleep Training?
As the name suggests, sleep training is the process of reinforcing behaviors that help your newborn self-soothe when left alone, stay asleep longer, and fall back into dreamland when they wake.
These behaviors result in longer, more restful sleep — for both you and your little one — that can help everyone involved feel better during waking hours and improve the overall quality of life for the entire family.
Once trained, babies can sleep anywhere from nine to 12 hours at night without you needing to get up every few hours to feed, rock, or soothe them.
Your little one will still require regular naps throughout the day because that’s just how much sleep babies need. But, with successful sleep training, you may not need to close your eyes when your baby does because you’re getting all the rest you need at night.
When To Start Sleep Training
The best time to start sleep training is around the six-month mark, but you can start as early as four months or as late as nine months. It all depends on your baby’s behavior.
Here are two signs that they might be ready:
- They no longer need to eat at night or right before bed
- They start falling asleep on their own at night
In most cases, before a newborn exhibits these behaviors, they’re not ready for sleep training because they haven’t developed their natural circadian rhythms to the point that they would fall asleep on their own and stay asleep throughout the night.
But, when they’re ready, sleep training can help your child feel better and have a happier temperament when they’re awake.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to sleep train your baby. Your little one will eventually learn to fall asleep on their own. It just may take them a bit longer to develop those habits.
Sleep Training Methods
We recommend choosing one process and trying it for at least two weeks (one week for Cry It Out). If, after that time, you’re not seeing any progress, switch to another method and try again for another two weeks.
1) Cry It Out
Cry It Out — or “full extinction” to distinguish it from another method we discuss later on — is based on the theory that you can train your baby not to cry at night by simply not responding to their cries.
Here’s how it works:
- Go through your bedtime routine
- Put your baby in their crib
- Say goodnight
- Walk out
- Don’t return unless it’s time for their night-time feeding
This method can be difficult at first, but many parents are surprised how quickly the crying will taper off. Your little one might cry a lot for the first two or three nights, but every night after that, the fussing gets less and less until it goes away completely.
The Shush-Pat method is part of a process that also includes the Pick Up, Put Down method.
Here’s how they both work:
- If your little one is still awake when you put them down for the night, stay in the room.
- If they’re fussy, make shushing sounds and pat their tummy to calm and reassure them (the Shush-Pat method).
- You could also pick them up and hold them for a few minutes and then put them back down before they fall asleep (the Pick Up, Put Down method).
The idea behind these two techniques is that you provide a calming presence but refrain from doing anything that helps your little one fall asleep — that’s their job.
3) Chair Method
As a sleep training program, the Chair Method requires a lot of discipline from you.
First, go through your bedtime routine and lay your baby down in their crib. Instead of leaving the room, sit in a chair next to the crib. When they fall asleep, leave the room. If they wake up, come back into the room and sit in the chair until they fall back asleep.
Every few nights, move the chair farther away from the crib until you’re out of the room completely.
Most experts agree that this isn’t the first method to choose because having a parent in the room but not responding can be confusing for the child. It can also be too much stimulation, which can defeat the purpose of being in the room.
4) Interval Method
The Interval Method of sleep training is also known as the Ferber method, graduated extinction, or progressive waiting.
With this technique, you go through your nighttime routine, place your little one in their crib, and then:
- Leave the room
- Wait a minute or two
- Go back in the room
- Reassure your little one with calming words or a gentle touch, such as a rub or pat
- Leave the room again and restart the process
- Gradually increase the amount of time between visits until you reach 15 minutes
If you find that going into the room excites your little one and keeps them awake, you might consider trying a more direct method, such as Cry It Out.
Tips For Effective Sleep Training
1) Pick A Start Date
To make your sleep training more effective, pick a start date that doesn’t also include major events in your baby’s life.
For example, don’t start one of the methods while your little one is teething or there’s a time change in the next few days. Any kind of novel stimulation — switching bedrooms, a new crib, or introducing a new night nurse — can disrupt your newborn’s habits.
It can also be helpful to start on a Friday and take advantage of the weekend or to schedule a few vacation days away from work so you don’t have to worry about sleep deprivation.
2) Create A Bedtime Routine
Sleep training is all about establishing good habits. Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it over the long haul can contribute to the success of the process.
For example, bathe your baby, dress them in soft jammies or a cozy swaddle, read them a short story, sing a few soothing lullabies, and then lay them down to sleep.
Following a bedtime routine helps your little one develop an internal clock and lets them know that it’s time to go to sleep soon.
3) Create A Conducive Environment
The environment in which your baby sleeps is extremely important to the success of your sleep training. Keep their room as dark and as cool as possible.
And, in regard to temperature, try to maintain their sleep space between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If their nursery contains windows that let in a lot of ambient light, consider installing heavy curtains or shades to reduce the brightness.
4) Avoid Sleep Crutches
Regardless of the method you choose, do your best to avoid sleep crutches whenever possible. Sleep crutches are behaviors such as rocking, singing, or nursing that your little one can come to associate with sleeping.
In some cases, your baby will need you to perform one of those behaviors in order for them to feel comfortable enough to go back to sleep. That defeats the entire purpose of the sleep training process.
The goal is to teach them to self-soothe and put themselves back to sleep rather than relying on rocking, singing, or nursing.
5) Stay Consistent
One of the biggest hurdles to successful sleep training is consistency.
From time to time, your baby will cry in the middle of the night, even if they haven’t done it in a while. That doesn’t mean the process is a failure.
By all means, check to make sure nothing is wrong, but don’t revert to old behaviors (including sleep crutches) that might undo all the time and effort you’ve already put in.
The Best Chance For Sleep Success
When it comes right down to it, the quality and duration of your newborn’s sleep actually starts with the mattress in their crib.
How does that apply to sleep training? It means that you can set your little one up for success right from the get-go by giving them a firm foundation on which to sleep.
And with our mattress’s Wovenaire® and Breathe-Thru technologies, you can sleep soundly knowing that should your precious little one accidentally roll onto their stomach at night, they’ll still be able to breathe.
That’s peace of mind — and a deep, restful sleep for your newborn — you can’t get anywhere else. It all starts with a Newton Baby breathable mattress!
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