3 Baby Sleeping Techniques Every Parents Should Learn
Do you find your baby's sleeping habits frustrating? Then it might be time to say goodbye to groggy mornings and learn a few baby sleep training methods. As a newborn, it is expected that your baby will sleep close to 17 hours a day. However, no more than two to four hours at a time. As such, your old sleeping patterns are likely to change as well. Deprived of sleep, you will tend to tire easily throughout you day. Fortunately, this behavior is short lived. At about 4 to 6 months, parents should consider baby sleep training methods to ensure babies fall asleep and stay asleep during the night.
Before delving into baby sleep training methods, it is important to note that starting early is key in later success. Encouraging healthy sleeping habits early in life, sets the path for your baby to self-settle and fall asleep months later. At about two weeks of age, simple lessons such as encouraging activity and conversation during the day, and dimmed lights and less talking at night will help your baby apprehend that night-time is sleep-time. Essentially, at 6 weeks, a baby's circadian rhythms begin to develop. This will dictate his natural way of regulating both sleep and waking patterns.
Planning for Success
As researchers have shown, we are creatures of habit. Babies are no different. Success at the end of the training duration heavily relies on prior preparation. The following pointers can be established months before training begins.
- Schedule nap and sleep times. Picking regular hours for waking, taking a nap during the day and sleeping at night, reassures your baby and motivates them to form proper sleeping habits. This results in less fast settling, come sleep training time.
- Set a bedtime regimen. As mentioned, babies can already differentiate day and night at 6 weeks old. For this reason, a bedtime regimen can be used to indicate to the baby, that it is time to sleep. A bit of play can be used to burn up any unused energy before settling down to sleep. Following play with soothing activities, such as a bath and massage, is encouraged.
- Pick a sleep-time hour you can abide to. Experts put this at about 7 or 8 PM. This keep your baby from getting overly tired. Not only does tiring excessively make your baby fussy, but it also deters them from sleeping. Therefore, late hours should be avoided.
Some of the most practised sleep training methods include:
1. Extinction Sleep Training
Probably the hardest method for most parents, extinction sleep training involves laying your baby in their cot before they are asleep, and letting them self-soothe to sleep. As expected, this method involves a lot of crying - on the baby's part. So much so that it is commonly referred to as the 'cry it out' method. Strong advocates for this method, such as Dr. Weissbluth, claim that the method can positively influence your child's development and moods into childhood.
This method works best if the parent is in tune with their child's tell-tale signs of tiring. These commonly include staring blankly into space, eye-rubbing, disinterest in toys and people, yawning, stretching and so on.
- Attend to all your child's needs (feeding, bathing and clean diaper).
- Lay baby on their cot even when not completely asleep.
- Leave bedroom and allow baby to self-soothe to sleep. At this stage, you can expect some amount of crying. Nonetheless, do not go back to the room to soothe the baby. (You would not be blamed for thinking this step crude. It is a deal breaker with many parents).
Benefits of the Extinction Sleep Training
- Plenty of research backs its effectiveness in a matter of days. It has shown on numerous occasions that babies can be converted into quality sleepers far much easily, than other methods.
- Forms good sleeping habits while discouraging bad ones.
- It is not difficult to implement as the baby does all the work.
Drawbacks of Extinction Sleep Training
- Gut-wrenching cries! Take heart, this will only continue for a few days.
- Might involve prolonged crying for the first few attempts. With babies being different, some might have low-toned cries for a few minutes, while other may wail for up to an hour.
- On some occasions, some babies have begun associating sleep with crying. They therefore form a habit of always crying before sleeping.
2. No-Tears Approach
On the opposite end of the cry-it out method, this approach is more gradual and involves far less crying. Advocates, such as educator Elizabeth Pantley, suggest that sleep-time is a great opportunity to bond with babies. The approach is further aided by a daytime nap schedule. These schedules do a long way in regulating a child's sleep.
- Pick an early hour for sleeping. Taking a considerably longer time for your baby to fall asleep, experts propose starting your regimen some time before 7 PM.
- Develop the most soothing rituals that are comfortable to you and your child. These are activities such as singing a lullaby, storytelling, rocking the cot as well as picking up and laying down the baby on the cot as frequently as needed.
- Frequently check in with your child and attend to them anytime they start to cry.
Benefits of the No-Tears Approach
- Bonds baby and parent.
- More reassuring for the child.
- Gentle, less anguishing experience for all parties.
Drawbacks of the No-Tears Approach
- An exhausting affair for the caregiver.
- Since props (shakers, blankets and others) are used, babies form a habit of requiring props to sleep. Similarly, dependency on adult supervision during sleeping time is shunned upon.
- Does not encourage babies to develop healthy sleeping habits.
3. Fading Approach
A middle-ground between the two methods, fading picks the best of both approaches. Sitting in the same room or frequently checking up on them, while allows them to develop their own soothing techniques. Expert family therapist Kim West, advices using fade away methods, as the most efficient and easy to implement for both parties.
Procedure (Fading Chair)
- Once all your baby's needs have been met, lay him in his cot. Sit next to the cot to reassure him.
- Gradually move your chair further away from the cot each night.
- Aim to eventually leave the room when it is sleeping time.
- If at any time your baby starts crying, without picking them up, go back to the room to reassure them. In time, your child will be able to soothe themselves to sleep.
Procedure (Fading Presence)
- Once the baby is in his bed, leave the room.
- Set a timer to go off after 5-minute intervals.
- If there is no fuss, go back to the room to reassure your child when the timer goes off. Just like the fading chair approach, no picking is required.
- Repeat until your baby is asleep.
- ln coming days, increment the intervals until you do not need to check on your young one.
Benefits of the Fading Approach
- The gradual fade method allows you sufficient time to train your baby at his own pace.
- Requires less time to coach your child than the no-tears approach.
Drawbacks of the Fading Approach
- Might take a longer time to train your child than extinction sleep training.
In choosing the right technique for you and your baby depends on what feels most comfortable and natural to both of you. Picking baby sleep training methods, is a matter of choosing techniques that you are sure you can implement and maintain over the course of you baby's training. If you however find that a particular method is not effective, try changing to a different one until you settle on the right one.