Bringing home your bundle of joy, after months of waiting, feels like a dream. However, as the nights go on, you notice something.
You don’t sleep that much anymore. Your bundle of joy has their own internal clock – and it’s taken over your own.
You may have caught yourself catching a quick nap in the morning because it’s finally quiet. At night, you’re prepared to offer your child anything if only they would go to sleep.
Unfortunately, babies do indeed operate on their own terms – whether it’s feeding times, playing times, or, more exhaustively, sleeping times. Even still, it’s important for your health and their own that they eventually learn to sleep through the night.
This process is called sleep training your baby – and, undoubtedly, every parent faces this trial at some point. Since many parents warn that it will first result in more crying, you’ll probably find the task unappealing.
However, if you’d like to enjoy a good night’s rest and wish the same for your baby, it’s time to learn how to sleep train your child.
- 1 Why is Sleep Training Necessary?
- 2 Is It Right To Train Babies To Sleep?
- 3 When Can You Start Sleep Training?
- 4 Different Sleep Training Methods
- 5 Which is the Best Sleep Training Method?
- 6 Best Sleep Training Books and Websites
- 7 Conclusion
Why is Sleep Training Necessary?
Infant sleep training is the process of teaching your child to recognize the appropriate times for sleeping and waking. A regular sleeping pattern has proven benefits for both adults and children, such as enhanced mood, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of disease later in life.
However, as a parent, you’ll notice the greatest advantage is being able to get some nighttime rest yourself – and avoid slumping around like a zombie throughout the day.
Remember when your parents would send you to bed at a regular hour? “You need your rest,” they may have said. Well, they were right.
As adults, it’s easy to slip into a schedule where you stay up as late as you want and deal with the consequences. However, your baby isn’t as capable of dealing with those fallouts.
Among other things, resting well at night ensures babies can enter the deeper stages of sleep. This is necessary to repair their immune system, improve the growth of their body, and to strengthen their brains.
If their sleeping patterns are disrupted by random periods of wakefulness, or because of greater exposure to sunlight – as is expected during the day – you’ll find yourself with a baby that’s all out of sorts. Their mood, health, and ability to grow will suffer.
As a bonus, once you sleep train your baby, you can return to a healthy sleep pattern as well. This will give you the energy to be the best parent you can be.
Is It Right To Train Babies To Sleep?
Some parents may worry about interfering with their child’s seemingly natural sleeping pattern. In fact, many people feel it’s wrong to force a sleep schedule onto their babies.
After all, they’re so fresh into life – how could their natural instincts be incorrect?
In the same way, your child will eventually learn how to walk, bathe, and eat with a fork instead of their hands, babies need to be taught how to best care for themselves.
Their sleeping patterns aren’t excluded from this. There’s no doubt that adults need regular sleep, and our younger selves aren’t magically better suited to restless nights.
However, it’s worth noting that legitimate reasons can exist on why your child struggles to properly sleep. Health issues should be ruled out with your pediatrician, and environmental roadblocks should be handled.
Bright lights or loud noises are sure to keep anybody awake, as are abnormal room temperatures and empty bellies. Once these basic issues are eliminated, sleep training your baby will just be a matter of time and effort.
When Can You Start Sleep Training?
So, when is a good time to begin sleep training?
When to sleep train your baby depends somewhat on your child themselves. Some babies are ready as soon as four months old, while others will be closer to the six-month mark before they can adapt to a regular schedule.
It’s important to realize that very young children can’t get to sleep without some form of assistance from adults. Starting before your child has hit the four-month mark will result in frustration for you and them.
On the other hand, it is never too late to begin sleep training your child. Older children are more likely to quickly understand what the entire undertaking is about, saving you frustration.
If your child is beginning to require fewer overnight feedings, it’s a sure sign they’re ready for sleep training. Note that, as they get older, it’s still normal for them to be hungry one or two times a night. Once they’ve been fed, they’ll typically fall back asleep quickly.
The start of sleep training doesn’t mean you can never enter your child’s room during the night – only that you need to differentiate between legitimate reasons and moments where they could fall asleep by themselves.
Different Sleep Training Methods
If you ask around on how to sleep train a baby, you’ll find there are many differing opinions – and each parent has their own favorite sleep training method.
With that in mind, know that you shouldn’t begin sleep training just because other people tell you to. This undertaking should only happen when you feel your child is ready.
Starting too soon may frustrate you and your child, and no outside person will understand your baby like you.
However, if you’re ready for that step, here are the most common sleep training methods and what you can expect when using them.
This video goes into more details on sleep training.
The Interval Method
If you’re not comfortable with going cold turkey right away, the interval method is a good technique. This approach is occasionally used as a stepping stone to the “Cry-It-Out” method, depending on how parents feel the training has progressed.
Since it’s the most organic approach, you can use it full-time or as a transitioning tool for other methods.
You start by bringing your child to bed as they grow sleepy. After they’ve settled down, you leave the room for a set amount of time. In the beginning stages, this should be a short time, ranging between half a minute to a minute.
Once this time is up, you can go back into the room and pat or rub your baby, and whisper to them that you’re there.
Once you’ve done this, you leave the room again – this time for a little longer. Repeat the process until you’re outside for 15 minutes at a time or until your baby has fallen asleep. If they wake up during the night, you repeat the process until they fall asleep again.
This is a time-consuming process, certainly. However, the slow build-up is comforting to your child and helps them learn that resting peacefully on their own doesn’t mean being entirely abandoned. As a bonus, most parents do report a positive change within the first two weeks.
This method does work better with slightly older children, so if your child is younger than six months, you may find it less successful.
The Cry-It-Out Method
You’ve probably heard about this method, and you probably didn’t like the sound of it. No parent enjoys hearing their child cry, and some consider this technique cruel.
Even still, it’s a very simple method and provides some of the quicker results.
When you decide you are ready for this technique, follow your child’s usual bedtime routine. After placing them down to sleep, leave the room and don’t enter, even if they start crying.
The only reason you should re-enter during the night is if they need to be fed. The first three nights will be the hardest – for you and them – but with every night, you should see an improvement.
Before starting this method, it’s worth alerting your neighbors that things will get rough for a bit. After the third night, your child will grow accustomed to being alone for bedtime.
If you feel the situation hasn’t improved after ten days, your child might be too young for this method to work.
The Chair Method
This technique is a mix of the previous two, which involves placing a chair next to your child’s crib. After they fall asleep, you can leave the room.
If they wake up, you enter the room again and sit in the chair next to them. It’s important that you don’t pick them up until their full sleep schedule has been achieved – whether that’s a one-hour nap or a full night’s rest.
Every second day, you move your chair further away from the crib. Eventually, you will no longer be in the room – typically, at the end of the second or third week.
This method provides more comfort for your child, because they can still see you. However, it may be harder for parents, since you’re forced to limit your interactions.
If the “Cry-It-Out” method fails, this is a good technique to fall back on, as it will show results within two to three weeks.
The Shushing Method
If you begin sleep training early on, the shushing method may be the best route for you.
With this technique, you go check on your baby when they start to fuss. If they fall back asleep without your intervention, great! If it looks like they’re working themselves up, you can pat them or pick them up to shush them.
If you’ve picked them up, you only hold them for as long as they’re fussing. Ideally, you put them back down before they’re asleep, as this helps them identify the link between you as a calming presence but not as a tool to help them sleep.
While ideally suited for younger babies, it can take a few weeks before you see any real changes.
This video explains more about sleep training methods.
Which is the Best Sleep Training Method?
Ultimately, the best sleep training method is the one that works for you and your child. You may end up mixing two or more techniques or strike sleepy gold right away.
Some children will respond better to certain techniques, and the most important part is how comfortable you feel with a method. After all, experts say the true key is sticking with the technique you chose.
If you find it difficult to commit to a more long-term method, or you can’t handle the crying entailed with the short-term strategy, then you may end up abandoning it. This can reverse all the progress you’ve made.
Best Sleep Training Books and Websites
Sleep training is hardest on the parents. As such, it’s natural to want further guidance and reassurance as you go through this process.
When it comes to finding the best sleep training baby book or website, consider your parenting style.
- If you’re happy with guidelines and rules, you’ll find Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall a dream come true.
- If you need some reassurance that your techniques are being executed properly, that your child is progressing as they should, and that you’re not going crazy, then seek out other parents who are sick of being patronized and only happy to share.
- Some sites promise you sound sleep in seven days, while others remind you of the basics we mentioned earlier.
- Even sleep consultants don’t always agree, but there are some things that are universal.
Check up on other new parents; they’ll be sure to point you in the right direction. And don’t be shy to share your favorite books and sites.
Exhausted parents are nothing new and it’s good to feel that you have each other for support.
In the end, sleep training your baby is just one more step in the growing process.
Helping them to sleep throughout the night will improve their health, balance their mood, and ensure they can enjoy their baby days without the added stress of sleep deprivation. As a bonus, no sleep deprivation for you can only help.
Being a good parent isn’t always easy, but you can take it one step at a night. You and your baby are sure to have sweet dreams after getting through this together.
What are your best sleep training methods?