Sleep Training for Baby... So You Can Take Back Your Sleep!

By Nikki M

Ready to take back your sleep? Easier said than done! The thing is, if baby's staying up and crying all night, you can bet you will be too. As a sleep-deprived parent, the smartest move would be to train your little ones to sleep on their own, all through the night.

Ask any parent about their sleep training experience, and you'll get tales so horrifying they rival the most insane birth stories. Sleep training is known to be difficult, complex, and super intimidating. But once you get past those tricky, tear-filled nights, the end result is well worth it.

Sleep training is one of those necessarily evils you just need to get out of the way. And the sooner you do it, the better — While baby's still young, it's easier for them to adapt to a new routine, and they'll be less resistant to change. (Try that with a 3-year-old… Actually, don't!) While sleep training is definitely no walk in the park, a ton of smart planning and a boatload of patience help get the job done.

Here are 5 tips to effectively sleep train your baby:

Have a Plan… and Stick with It!

There are ton of sleep-training methods out there. All you need to do is choose one, and stick with it.

  • There's Dr. Richard Ferber's method of "crying it out" where you put babies to bed awake. When they start crying, you don't pick them up or feed them— you simply comfort them by patting them, and leave! As the intervals of checking up on your little ones become longer and longer, they'll soon learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

  • You can also literally let your baby cry it out all night and just pass out earplugs to the whole neighborhood. Harsh, no-bull, but definitely quick and effective.

  • There are low-cry methods such as shushing and patting (self-explanatory), and the Pick Up and Put Down technique by Tracy Hog where you (you guessed it) continuously pick up and comfort your babies until they decide they're finished torturing you for the night.

  • Finally, there are the no-cry methods. You can create a womb-like environment for your little ones by swaddling them nice and snug. You then recreate the sounds of the womb with a lot of shushing, or if the thought of covering your baby in spit doesn't sound appealing, use a white-noise machine.

  • Another no-cry method is putting your little one to sleep in the "drowsy but awake" stage. What often freaks babies out in the middle of the night is waking up in an unfamiliar environment (the crib) when you've put them to sleep somewhere else (your arms). Putting them straight in the crib while they're still awake means there are no surprises, and no reason to be alarmed.

Technical names aside, you simply need a plan that makes sense. You know what makes zero sense? Trying to freestyle it every night and confusing the heck out of your baby. Consistency is key when it comes to sleep training. Give it about a week or two before calling it quits and diving into a new plan.

Evaluate your Expectations

Let's be realistic. While it's smart to begin sleep training quite early, there is such a thing as starting way too soon.

Don't expect newborn babies to get their ten hours when they're still dependent on round-the-clock feedings. Forcing a newborn to sleep through the night means cutting back on much-needed nourishment.

This is especially true when you're nursing—breast milk is much more digestible than formula, so baby gets hungry much more often. When you hold back on the feedings during these early stages, you also run the risk of drastically reducing your milk supply.

The sweet-spot is at around 3-6 months, when periods between feedings naturally become longer and longer. This is also the time where you begin feeding babies solid food, which ensures that they aren't skipping out on the extra calories while you begin the sleep-training affair.

Also, sleep regression is a thing. You may have been blessed with little angels who slept through the night since you brought them home from the hospital, but bouts of teething, illnesses, or even certain milestones may throw their already-perfect sleep routine all out of whack! In this case, you'll have to start from square one. (Sorry!)

Establish a Nighttime Routine

One way to make the sleep-training business much less stressful is to start with a relaxing nighttime routine. Instead of dreading bedtime, think of it as a way to jam-pack a lot of beneficial activities for baby, all while winding down:

  • Lavender bubble baths aren't just soothing— run a bath every single night, and it will actually start signaling your baby's brain that it'll soon be time to knock out.

  • Read, read, read! No, they aren't really catching on to how the mouse is tricking the Gruffalo into not eating him, but it will help your little ones get used to the concept of reading, thus instilling a valuable habit and a great love of books!

A relaxed baby = a happier baby more likely to comply with your sleep-training techniques. On the other hand, an agitated, not-sleepy-at-all baby will laugh in your face as you attempt to "shush and pat."

Have the Proper Tools

As minimalist as you want to be, baby gear is created to make your life as a parent much more convenient.

  • The swaddle is going to be your best friend throughout this whole process. Ever see sleeping babies start flailing as you put them down in the crib, only to start crying all over again? That's because they're not burrito-wrapped!

  • Arms hurting from rocking your little one to sleep? Put them in a baby swing for a few minutes while you do some stretches.

  • Your little one may have a favorite toy at this point. Whether it's a small stuffed bear, a blue squeaky block, or a pot lid from the kitchen, take advantage of the attachment and bring your baby's desired plaything over to the crib to help them self-soothe.

  • Create a sleep-inducing environment in the nursery via black-out curtains and a white noise machine. A humidifier is also nice and soothing when the air feels too dry.

  • A baby monitor helps when you're set on letting babies cry it out in the next room, but want to make sure that they're crying to be soothed, and not because a coyote climbed in through the window.

If at First You Don't Succeed…

There's always co-sleeping. You know what they say (and by "they" I mean Elvis) have fun now, worry later!

Just remember to relax. It's hard to be calm and Zen-like when it's the 26th time you've gotten up in the middle of the night. But when babies sense stress, they like to one up you by screaming even louder and becoming even more inconsolable.

Relax, and have fun. Soon your little ones will grow up to be these big people who'll lock their door on you and wipes off kisses on the cheek and have actual weekend plans that exclude you! They'll also be sleeping all day at this point BUT IS THAT REALLY WHAT YOU WANT?!

What are your tips for sleep training? Share your wisdom in the comments below!

Tags : baby   newborn   sleep training   

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