Nothing is more exciting than looking forward to the arrival of your little one. All the fun plans to make, nursery to design, gifts to select, clothes to pick out. As much fun as it is, there is one thing most expectant parents fear and it looms over this amazing experience like a dark cloud: once the baby comes, our time of peaceful sleep is OVER! Sleep deprivation really is the major thing that puts a damper on the excitement of becoming parents. The more you love sleep, the more you dread this aspect, which leads you to wonder, can a baby really be put on a sleep schedule? Can you really implement a routine so your baby will be sleeping through the night, at least at some point?
Keep It Constant
Consistency is the key to making things run well and babies are no different. We, as adults, function well on a schedule, why would a baby be any different? How do you possibly begin to get your baby on a sleep schedule? You do normal, routine activities and you do them consistently:
- Set up a bedtime routine! Doing things to calm your baby, swaddle them, let them know it’s time for rest not time for play.
- Teach them how to soothe themselves, that way you aren’t running to their crib every 15 minutes. This can mean you check on them, maybe gently lay your hand on them and leave, but you don ‘t start talking or turning on the light. You keep the quiet and the dark a priority so they know it’s not time to get up.
- Start to cut back on their nighttime feedings. Once they are past the newborn stage, they don’t need to be fed every few hours. Just because they wake up doesn’t necessarily mean they are hungry.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. When babies are newborn, they don’t know nighttime from daytime, it’s your job to show them. At night keep it as low light as possible, no loud television or music noises, teach them the differences in what happens at night and what happens during the day. And don’t let them sleep too much during the day or you will end up seeing most of the nighttime hours with them.
- Put them down for the night around the same time everyday. Around 3 months and up, their body will recognize when it’s bedtime and they will become more accustomed to fall asleep at the same time most days.
- Don’t give up on the schedule. Sometimes babies go through a pattern called sleep regression where they start waking up during the night, several things like a growth spurt or illness can break the pattern, but it doesn’t usually last very long. Don’t give up on sleep schedules, they will resume soon!
WHEN DO WE START?
As much as you are eager to start a sleep schedule and routine, don’t expect to arrive home from the hospital with your newborn and roll right into sleep training. They need time to adjust to life outside the womb and you need time to adjust to their little personality to know what will work best for both of you. So, when is a good time?
- 0-2 months – Newborns usually sleep, like A LOT, so don’t worry, you have time!
- 2-3 months – It’s still a little too soon for a lot of training, but you can begin by trying a schedule and a bedtime routine, but be flexible as little ones can be unpredictable sometimes.
- 4-6 months – The sleep patterns of babies begin to change around this time period so it is a good time to really implement falling asleep on their own and learning how to soothe themselves back to sleep at this age. After 4 months, babies are also more physically able to go all night without a feeding.
- 6 months old and up – Don’t worry if your baby is over 6 months old and you are just starting. You haven’t missed a window of time, you can start now!
Realize though, that every baby is unique, different, one of a kind. If all other methods have been exhausted (pun intended) they might just be hungry! Only a parent knows their child and their child’s specific needs. That’s why they call these “suggestions.” In the end, YOU are the one who knows your little one best and what works best for them.
First Things First
Before you choose a sleep method, like we said earlier, make sure you are laying the groundwork by helping your baby with a schedule. Help them see the differences in night and day, keep night time calm and quiet, and make sure they aren’t sleeping too much during the day. This builds a great foundation on which to build good sleep patterns and habits that build on a successful sleep schedule
What “sleep training” style should you choose? Yes, they really call it that, and there are more ways, styles, and methods than you could possibly have time to explore each and every one. Know how to optimize your search as you research best ways of sleep training a baby. Key words and phrases that are important to you and that you believe in will guide you toward the type of help and direction you are looking for. And if the first one you try doesn’t succeed, try again. In other words, have plans A,B, C and D ready. Babies can be quite unpredictable, sometimes trial and error is the only way to find what works best for your child. Baby sleep schedules should depend on your schedule and your baby’s sleep patterns, what works best for BOTH of you!
Which Method Is Best For Me and My Child?
There are an endless amount of sleep training methods out there. Read them, think on them, then narrow down a few and see which works best for your baby. Sleep training is really defined as teaching your baby how to sleep independently. Here are a few of the more popular methods out there right now:
- The Chair Method – This method is where a parent places a chair near the baby’s crib and stays until the baby falls asleep, each time moving the chair further and further away until your presence is no longer needed for them to fall asleep. You are not supposed to give them any attention or pick them up, but they know you are there.
- CIO (Cry-It-Out) Method – This method is basically like it’s name, you let the baby cry (as long as you have assessed there is nothing wrong you need to address) and they realize crying won’t bring you to them, so they eventually fall back asleep on their own.
- Ferber Method – This method is named after the pediatrician who came up with it, Dr. Richard Ferber. The Ferber Method is the opposite of the CIO method, he believed it best to lay the baby down while still awake and when they would cry, wait 3 minutes then go reassure them, not pick them up, but let them know you were still nearby. They cry again, you wait 5 minutes the next time before you go in, then 10 the next. This continues over the course of a week where the intervals become longer.
- Baby Wise – The Baby Wise method says to feed your child every 2 and a half to three hours, play with them then lay them in their crib drowsy, but awake. This will help them learn after eating and play, it’s time for rest and they will learn to fall asleep on their own.
Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
What if I try ALL 5 of these methods, and some others, and none of them work? Welcome to the club! These are tested methods that worked for SOME people, not necessarily ALL people that tried them found success. That’s the beauty of parenthood, we are all learning as we go. One method may work for you but you will find you have to tweak it a little bit to fit your child’s needs and personality. Some babies are just hungry, they have bigger appetites than other babies. One child can sleep through having a wet diaper, another child cannot. Some babies will face a pattern of sleep regression at one time or another, some babies will not. One thing is certain, your baby WILL be sleeping through the night at some point, so don’t lose hope! When they hit 12 months old you will look back at your journey through the first year and feel a sense of accomplishment. And don’t feel like a failure if these methods don’t work for you. You may find a completely new method, tailored just for your child that you can use, publish and get your own copyright 2020 to share with the world! There’s nothing more beautiful, or peaceful, than seeing babies asleep. You will get there, I promise!
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