Baby won’t settle down and sleep through the night? Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
According to a survey by Owlet baby care, many new parents battle sleep deprivation because their little bundle of joy just won’t sleep.
The survey pointed out that more than half of parents with kids within 6 months and below only manage to get 2-3 hours of disjointed sleep in one night.
Lack of sleep can be dangerous as it keeps you uncoordinated throughout the day. You burn out faster and could be courting depression.
With everything you as a new parent need to do to ensure that the baby is comfortable, having an uninterrupted 5-9 hours of sleep is really not too much to ask.
So, how do you get your newborn to sleep at night? Well, for many parents, sleep training is the answer.
We will discuss in this article what sleep training is, its origin, practices, advantages, and disadvantages.
- 1 What Happens When Your Baby Gets Enough Sleep?
- 2 What Is Sleep Training?
- 3 Tips To Help Your Newborn Develop Good Sleep Habits
- 4 When Can You Start Sleep Training Your Newborn?
- 5 How to Cope with Your Newborn’s Erratic Sleep Habits
- 6 How To Sleep Train Your Baby
- 7 Benefits of Sleep Training Your Baby
- 8 Disadvantages Of Sleep Training
- 9 Myths About Sleep Training A Baby
- 10 Conclusion
What Happens When Your Baby Gets Enough Sleep?
Let’s highlight why sleep training is super important. Sleep training primarily improves the quality of sleep both in the infant and the parents.
Beyond the joy and wonder that accompanies a newborn is a learning curve, sleep deprivation, and confusion— you’d often get confused about what to do.
Even though babies spend a considerable part of their first year sleeping, they do it in bits or spurts. This is neither good for them nor you, especially if your baby is past 6months.
Healthy sleep habits are formed at birth and would live with us for the rest of our lives.
When babies sleep, they process everything they have experienced, seen, or heard during their waking moments. Long, uninterrupted sleep helps improve their cognitive abilities and capacity for learning.
Healthy Behavioral Patterns
Infants who get more consolidated sleep time at night are less irritable and have a sunnier disposition than those who sleep in spurts. Quality sleep seems to positively impact children’s neurological development, which in turn alleviates and prevents many bad behavioral habits.
Reduced Stress and Mental Pressure
Some studies have shown that there is a direct link between maternal depression and infant sleep problems. Baby’s sleeping problems must improve to boost maternal mental health. A happier baby leads to a happier mum, which creates a healthier, satisfying relationship.
Increased Immune System
Your baby needs a lot more sleep than you, mainly because of this point.
While sleeping, several growth hormones which help fight off diseases are secreted. These hormones boost the baby’s immune system by producing antibodies and also encourage weight gain.
You can now see why it’s super important for your baby to enjoy several hours of uninterrupted sleep. So let’s jump right in.
What Is Sleep Training?
Sleep training is teaching your baby to fall asleep without much help from you. There will be little or no cuddles, rockings, cooings, or nursing to help them sleep.
Babies are born with no sense of time, and their snooze patterns can be wildly erratic. Day and night are the same to them, and all they want is to be fussed upon as the center of your universe. This is normal but not exactly healthy for you. So, you need to train your baby to sleep through the night without so much as a sniffle.
The concept became widely accepted in the ’80s during the industrialization period when John B. Wattson introduced it. He suggested the famous cry-it-out method that get infants to sleep, so that their sleep-deprived parents can have some rest.
Sleep training has since moved on to become one of the most effective ways to get your baby to sleep and stay asleep.
Newborns can’t have set bedtimes and nap times because they are almost always hungry.
Babies have tiny stomachs that digest food pretty quickly and pass it out as waste. Soon enough, they are hungry again.
Their erratic feeding patterns make it difficult for them to sleep through the night. Aside from that, they have no concept of night and day, so they may need your help to settle in and rest.
Newborn babies are incapable of self-soothing, so they would need lots of cuddling, swaying, rocking, etc., before they can be persuaded into la-la land.
When a baby cries, it’s a signal that they need food, love, or comfort, so you must give them what they need. At a very young age, you can’t spoil them. But as they grow a little older and stronger, you might have to practice some of these tips to get them used to sleep independently.
Tips To Help Your Newborn Develop Good Sleep Habits
Newborns sleep a lot. As they get used to the world outside the quiet space of mom’s belly, they may snooze an average of 14-17 hours.
Most of it during day time. But, as they grow older, their sleep patterns change, and they cannot settle in for long hours, especially when they become used to bad sleeping habits.
So here are some simple tips to help your newborn develop good sleep habits from the moment you bring them home.
Teach Them The Difference Between Day And Night
Since newborns have no concept of day or night, start immediately to show them the difference. During the day, offer plenty of interesting conversation and playtime.
You could also take a stroll out for some daylight. Be sure to keep your baby protected from sun exposure. Stay close to shaded areas and keep your baby’s skin adequately covered.
You can also apply a small amount of harmless baby sunscreen to their face, hands, and legs to protect them from the harsh rays of the sun.
At night, keep things calm and quiet. Dim the lights to give them a signal that it’s time to sleep.
Don’t Force It
Do not push a formal schedule on your newborn. They are still months away from sticking to one.
Keeping them awake for too long during the day or waking them up from an early nap so that they’d be tired enough to sleep through the night won’t work. It would stress your baby and probably make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
Predict your baby’s sleeping patterns
Newborns rarely have good sleeping habits. They simply sleep and wake as long as they choose, which is why you should slowly introduce them to bedtime routines.
As they grow older to their 3rd and 4th months, you could predict a solid sleep-wake pattern.
You can now tell when your baby is likely to go down for naptime or bedtime or when they would wake up in the morning.
This would be an excellent time to introduce a general daily routine, including a sleep schedule.
Maintain a consistent routine
This is especially important when trying to get your newborn used to a sleeping pattern. Fill their days with activity and stimulation so that at night they will be sufficiently primed to sleep.
Create a solid bedtime routine with cues that signal your baby it’s time for bed. Start with feeding the baby, then a bath, a relaxing massage, then dress them up in pajamas.
Conclude with bedtime stories or lullabies.
Some sleep consultants advise that feeding should come at the beginning of the bedtime routine so that your baby doesn’t associate eating with bedtime.
That’s one lousy sleeping habit you want to avoid if you must sleep train your child in months to come.
Get Quality Baby Gear
Be sure to use good quality baby items so your baby can be comfortable when they sleep. Get the best baby crib that you can find that’s sturdy, safe, and with good material.
Also, you might want to install a smart baby monitor, as this can help you track your little child’s sleep patterns, even if you need to step away and go to another area in your house.
When Can You Start Sleep Training Your Newborn?
You can’t sleep-train a baby under 3 months of age because they are not mentally developed to handle it. Newborns below 4 months haven’t set a circadian rhythm— what we know as the internal clock.
4-6 months of age is the best time to sleep train your baby. Experts claim that at this point, your baby is developed enough to have a circadian rhythm. They can also self-soothe when they feel sleepy and drift off by themselves when they wake during the night.
At this point, they generally don’t need as much night feeding as they did in the early months, which is good news for sleep-deprived new parents.
Sleep training can take anything from few days to a month, depends on what method you use and if it’s what your baby needs.
The best news about sleep training your baby is that they’ll learn healthy sleep habits early enough that would grow with them as they mature.
How to Cope with Your Newborn’s Erratic Sleep Habits
Even though we understand how physically draining your baby’s unpredictable snoozes are to you, it is perfectly normal for them. This aids their development and won’t last forever. That’s why experts advise that you wait until they are developmentally ready to handle sleep training.
Meanwhile, take sneak naps when you can. As soon as the baby is down for the count, get some shuteye.
Set the mood. Play some quiet music in the background, dim the lights and keep loud noises away. When your baby is too fussy to settle down and sleep, setting a sleep-inducing mood might do the trick.
How To Sleep Train Your Baby
Now that your little one is finally ready to follow a sleep schedule, don’t snooze on training them to get used to sleeping independently. You can use any of these methods to sleep train your baby.
The Ferber Method
This procedure is also known as check and console because it entails periodically checking in on your infant to let them know you are always there for them.
As soon as your newborn shows signs of being tired, gently place them in their crib, bid them goodnight, and leave the room. At designated intervals, say every 5 minutes, you may check in on them but don’t pick them up.
Increase the time between check-ins every night. You could speak loving words to them to establish your comforting presence in their lives, but don’t stay in the room for too long. Do this intermittently until they fall asleep.
Some people claim that letting your child cry is not healthy, therefore ferber method or any other cry it out sleep training technique is harmful. But according to some sleep specialists, that’s just a myth. Ferber method is not harmful if done correctly.
The Cry It Out (CIO) Method
The CIO is a traditional sleep training technique alongside the Ferber method. It is also the most controversial.
They both involve letting your baby cry till they are exhausted enough to sleep. For many parents, this is an extreme method of sleep training your baby.
As the name implies, your baby will have to cry it out till they realize that crying won’t always get them the attention they seek.
Babies are huge attention seekers, well they are infants, and they are cute, and they know they are the center of your world. Sometimes they cry because they need you to pick them up, play with them, feed them, show them attention.
But you can’t continue doing this all the time, especially at night when you desperately need some rest. So to enforce good sleep patterns, specialists claim that you let your baby cry till they tiredly sleep off.
Just like the Ferber method, go through your usual bedtime preparations, then place your baby in their crib while they are drowsy but awake. Then say goodnight and leave the baby’s room.
Unlike the check and console method, where you periodically check on your child to establish your presence and console them when they fuss. CIO entails you going cold turkey.
You literally leave them on their own. And if they cry out their displeasure, you ignore them until the baby has no choice but to sleep off. This technique may go on for a week or two before the baby learns to self-soothe.
Some parents alternate Ferber and CIO methods when sleep-training their baby. There is no hard and fast rule. In the end, you have to do what is best for your baby and judge if they have developed well enough to handle the training.
The Pick Up Put Down Method
Unlike the CIO method, this approach entails you picking up your baby when they cry and putting them back in their crib as soon as they stop.
It requires a lot of patience, a lot of back and forth before your baby can get the hang of it.
The trick is not to linger when you pick your baby. As soon as they stop crying, please place them in the crib and leave the room. You can combine this technique with the Ferber method. They work well together.
The Camping Out Method
This technique requires a lot of patience and discipline. It is one of the gentler ways of sleep training a baby and is also known as the sit-in chair method. Some experts claim it might take up to 2 weeks or more before you can see notable results.
Unlike the previous methods, this one requires you to sit in a chair or lie close to your baby till they fall asleep.
Once comforted by your presence, your baby may feel safe enough to fall asleep. Immediately they sleep off; you may leave the room. If you hear them fussing, simply reclaim the seat close to the crib till they stop crying.
Don’t pick them up or try to stop them from crying. The difference between this method and CIO is that you are right there in the room watching them cry, but you have to ignore it. Soon enough, they would learn to self-soothe themselves enough to sleep.
Move the chair further away from them every few nights till you are out of the baby’s room. At this point, your little one is used to sleeping off and staying that way without your presence.
The Shush Pat Method
This method is an extended version of the pickup and put-down method.
The only difference is that you pat your baby reassuringly till they settle.
Or you pick them up and soothe them when a shush pat is inadequate to console them.
Sooth them but put them down before they fall asleep. Remember, the idea behind sleep training is to get your infants used to sleeping in their bed with little or no help from you.
The Bedtime Fading Method
This sleep training technique requires you to reduce the bedtime routine gradually. The pattern is those activities you use to put your baby to sleep; this includes rocking, nursing, or petting.
Slowly but deliberately lessen the time spent in that habit till you no longer have to do it. The method is excellent to minimize crying, but it is not easy to sustain.
Try to stick to the plan till your baby learns to fall asleep independently. Then you will finally enjoy a few hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
The Bedtime Hour Fading Method
This approach requires you to slowly move your baby’s sleep hour to an earlier time. Start with putting your baby in the crib at the time they usually doze off.
Let them get used to sleeping at this particular time for a couple of nights. Then gradually shift the bedtime to an earlier time till your baby gets used to sleeping early.
A good rule of thumb is to move the time earlier by 15 minutes. For instance, you settle your baby for bedtime at 8:00 pm. But they end up crying or fussing for about 20 mins and finally sleep off between 8:25- 8:30 pm.
If you notice this is usually the time they sleep off, then this is their natural bedtime. Every few nights, move the time earlier by 15 minutes till your baby is okay sleeping off quickly.
Benefits of Sleep Training Your Baby
An undeniable advantage of night-weaning an infant is more hours of uninterrupted sleep for the parents.
However, there are also other benefits.
• Babies will develop an internal clock for daytime and bedtime
• Significantly improves parents sleep and mental health within 3 months
• No long-term negative impact on the baby’s health
• Babies will learn earlier to sleep independently.
• The longer they sleep, the stronger your baby’s immune system
• Improves cognitive and emotional health of your little one
Disadvantages Of Sleep Training
Although letting your baby become sleep trained to have no long-term adverse effects, the short-term discomforts should be highlighted as well.
• It requires patience to endure your baby’s initial discomfort with the training.
• It requires commitment and consistency; else, you lose all the improvement you have made.
• You have to know what works for your infant. There is no one size fits all method.
• It could be emotionally tasking, especially for you.
Myths About Sleep Training A Baby
One of the fodders for mom-wars are myths and half-truths about sleep training babies. Arguments range from “oh no, sleep training is a terrible thing to do!” To “Sleep training should be done as soon as possible!”
The untruths about the concept have made it shrouded in mystery and scared many parents from considering it. Let’s see 5 common myths about sleep training so that you can make an informed decision.
#1. It is okay for babies to sleep in spurts
Some people argue that even grown-ups don’t sleep through the night. They say that there is a brief break in the sleep cycles. True, this is normal.
But this break is usually so brief that many people don’t even recall waking up. When you cannot go back to sleep during this break in a sleep cycle, it is known as dysfunctional sleep.
Even though it’s normal for babies to sleep in spurts, waking every other hour is certainly not healthy.
#2. Sleep training is unnecessary
Some studies have said that many babies will learn to fall asleep eventually with or without sleep training.
But how many caregivers are willing to wait till the child is 2 years or more before the parents find a night of uninterrupted sleep?
#3. Results of sleep training don’t last
Another myth is that as soon as the baby’s age increases or the routine changes, or there is a setback, all the improvements that come with sleep training would be wasted.
The idea behind sleep training is to help both children and parents have much-needed uninterrupted hours of sleep.
#4. Sleep training will severe the bond between you and your baby
Babies cry for several reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all. Remember, they love attention.
As long as you provide everything necessary for your baby’s comfort, crying will not damage your bond even if they cry for a while.
But the relationship between you and your child is in danger from exhaustion by sleep deprivation which may increase postpartum depression.
With the help of a sleep consultant, you and your baby can finally get some rest.
#5. Sleep deprivation is a badge of honor
Sleep training can be challenging for many parents, and that’s what makes it a controversial topic. However, there are many unpleasant things you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle—like visiting the dentist. See sleep training as one of those things.
Sleep deprivation is not a cross to bear or a badge of honor. It could cause debilitating long-term harm to your health and that of your child.
If you are squeamish about teaching your baby to fall asleep, but you feel it’s necessary, consider getting extra help.
The beginning of baby sleep training is often filled with tears, stress, discouragement, and deep bone weariness. Sleep training is one of those easier-said-than-done situations.
If you choose not to sleep train your baby, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
What matters is that you choose what’s best for you and your baby, whether it’s sleep training or not.
It would be helpful if you got the advice of a sleep consultant to know how best to regulate your baby’s sleep cycle.
If your baby can finally learn to sleep on their own and stay asleep for several hours through the middle of the night, you’d be glad you never gave up