Good sleep is essential to both your and your baby’s health. This much-needed downtime has a wide array of benefits and maintaining good sleep hygiene is key. According to the NHS, infants between 4-12 months require 12-16 hours of sleep a day, including naps. Between 1 and 2 years, 11-14 hours and 3 and 5 years require 10-13 hours. These guidelines are often hard to follow with work, family, and life getting in the way. One way of making sure your baby gets the rest they need is through sleep training. Sleep training can be done from infancy and is one of the go-to searches for new parents.
However, sleep training is also one of the most divisive topics among parents. Every baby is different so figuring when and how to get them to nod off can be difficult to pin down. That being said there are a few points that all parents agree on. Some obvious, some not, these top tips will help you and your baby find your rhythm and finally get you that full night’s sleep you’ve been after.
When Should You Start Sleep Training?
Firstly, deciding when to start sleep training differs from baby to baby. Sleep coaches agree though that promoting independent sleep should begin between 4 and 6 months old. If your baby is older there is no need to panic as routine and practice are all that’s needed. The reason for suggesting this 4-6 month window, according to occupational therapist Jennifer Garden, is because this is when some babies experience sleep regression. Other factors include new skills such as moving and rolling disrupting your baby’s routine.
The only difference age makes in sleep training is it may determine what method you can employ. For example, a gentle shush-pat (shh pat) method might work with a five-month-old but you’ll likely have to leave a one-year-old in the crib as they will protest (cry or scream) about the new bedtime routine.
Some parents suggest starting sleep training on a Friday to give you the weekend to deal with the potential breaks in routine, feeding etc. Alternatively, parents have been known to take off a few days from work to concentrate on instilling the new routine before adding work to the mix.
Another important factor is to get the green light from your doctor or paediatrician. Make sure to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions such as GERD, reflux, sleep apnea or allergies. Once given the all-clear, talk with your partner and decide on when you’re ready. A unified front is necessary to maintain the routine that will stand your child in good stead.
Decide on a Method
There are several methods and thousands of articles on which is best. By and large, they all fall on degrees of the same scale. Either Cry It Out (Extinction) or No Tears (Consolation). Whatever method you decide to go with, be sure to stick to it as babies react to their surroundings and variations can confuse them.
Decide on a date and make sure to keep a log of your baby’s rhythms. Note important things such as how many times your baby wakes a night, how long they sleep for etc. By keeping track of your baby’s patterns you’ll see development and not lose morale over this trying time.
Set the Scene
The environment can affect your baby’s sleep. A noticeable change from light to dark, a comfortable temperature and clean bedding ensure your baby’s internal clock recognises a system and gets a good night’s rest.
Planning For Success
Once you’ve planned your training it’s time to take the plunge. From here on it’s down to personal experience. To give you a little support here are a few tips from parents who’ve gone through the same thing:
- Don’t adjust the volume. Your baby will need to learn to sleep with ambient noise around.
- Invest in a baby monitor with a camera. When they cry you’ll be better placed to know if it genuine distress or a little whine, you also won’t need to disturb them to check they are settled.
- Try cutting down on unscheduled naps. Fill your days with activities to keep your child interested and active.
- Keep two of a kind together. Twins often sleep better next to each other as they miss being in the same space.
- Swaddling works! I swaddled until my baby was 4 months old and she’s still a great sleeper at 3-and-a-half years.
- Let them fuss a little. Delaying your trip to the room by a few minutes can give your baby a chance to self soothe.
- Give your baby space. Moving our baby into her own room was the key to changing her sleeping habits.
- Put your baby down while awake. Our routine ends with our baby being putting down drowsy but awake. This way she learns to fall asleep herself.
- Know when to give in. Your baby won’t be able to sleep well every night. If they are out of sorts then comfort and see to them to ensure they are safe and sound.
- Be patient. You’re learning alongside your baby so be prepared for ups and downs.
Stepping Stones Day Nursery is committed to helping your little one develop in a happy, safe and enjoyable environment. We believe it takes a village to raise a child and we provide each and every child with support, education, enrichment and entertainment. We look forward to seeing your little one learn and grow and would love to help you on this journey. To book a visit or get a free trial session contact us today. It’s never too early to start planning your child’s education.