What is sleep training?
Sleep training is teaching your babies to drift away into their dreamlands on their own, without any help from others.
If we look up the word in a dictionary, the definition of sleep training is “the process of training young children to fall asleep on their own, typically by means of techniques in which the child is left to cry without being comforted, either for gradually increasing periods of time or until they fall asleep”.
In other words, it means the baby is put down to bed fully awake and he dozes off without being cuddled, nursed, rocked or swayed.
Baby sleep training methods:
There are several methods by which you can train your baby to fall asleep on their own. Here is an overview of some of the most popular sleep training methods:
1) Ferber method:
Ferber method, also known as check-and-console method, is a method by which you need to check your kids on regular intervals but never rock or feed them to sleep. Put your babies in their crib awake after going through a bedtime routine, say good night and walk out.
Check after certain intervals. Soon reduce the check-ins over timed intervals and allow your baby to settle down. After sometime you will realise that your baby has learned to self-soothe and there’s no need for these comfort check-ins.
Sleep training Age for Ferber method: The best age for sleep training by Ferber method is when the baby is capable of sitting up or standing up i.e. when the baby is six months old. However, some family starts sleep training through this process even when the baby is four months old while others wait until the baby is over a year old.
Ferber method What if the baby is hungry? The best way to implement the Ferber method is without night feedings and for that it is recommended that parents should wait until their baby is capable of going 11-12 hours without consuming milk.
However, many parents can still use the Ferber method while continuing to feed at night once or twice.
Ferber method naps: Daytime naps are addressed in a different way than night time sleep. If parents want to implement Ferber method for naps then a limit of one-hour is put to the sleep-training session. If the baby has not fallen asleep, then the parents take a one-hour break and try again.
2) Cry it out method:
This method, also knows as extinction method, is a method by which you want to extinguish the crying of your child by not responding to it. The method involves putting your baby to bed and let him cry until he falls asleep on his own without your help.
Most of the parents are hesitant to go with this method. It appears to be harder on parents than children. They worry about how much crying will be involved. Though it can be difficult at first, parents are often surprised by how quickly this method works.
There is a lot of crying, but it’s short term, experts say. In the first two or three nights babies might cry a lot but gradually with every passing night it becomes less and less. Parents will see significant improvement with this method but it’s important to try it for a week before determining that it’s not working.
3) Fading method:
In this method there are two types of technique:
a) Bed-time routine fading
b) Bed-time hour fading.
With the bed-time routine fading technique, you can continue with whatever method you were using to help your baby fall asleep such as rocking or nursing, but decrease the amount of time you spend doing it until you don’t have to do it at all. This is a great technique minimising crying. But many parents find it difficult to sustain.
The bedtime-hour fading technique involves putting your baby into the crib at the time they usually end up dozing off, and making that their new bedtime for a couple of nights, and then gradually moving it to an earlier time.
For example, say you always put your baby to bed for the night at 8pm but they tend to fuss or cry in the crib for 20 minutes or more, until they finally nod off around 8.20pm. This means 8.20-30pm is actually their “natural bedtime”, even though you would like it to be earlier.
You can keep a diary to figure out when your baby naturally falls asleep and track when they finally settle for the night. A few nights later, move the whole routine 15 minutes earlier. Continue moving the bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night, if needed, until your baby has reached the desired bedtime.
When to start sleep training:
The ideal time to start sleep training is based on your baby’s development. It is usually somewhere between four and six months, when your baby hasn’t had much time to get used to feeding or rocking to sleep. At this stage, most babies are also developmentally ready to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own.
The age of your baby might determine what kind of sleep-training method you need to choose. For example, you can try a gentle shush-pat technique with a five-month-old, but you’ll likely have to leave a one-year-old in the crib as they cry or scream in protest about the new bedtime arrangement.
It’s better not to attempt a formal sleep-training method before four months, until your baby is able to go longer in between feeds and their circadian rhythm starts to develop.
Sleep training requires commitment from the parents. Not only the baby but also the parents should be ready to fully commit to the process and consistently follow a plan for 2-4 weeks. Both parents should be on board to give it a try and make it a success.
After your babies and you are ready, consult a paediatrician before trying out any methods.
Babies fighting sleep:
When your babies cry, fuss, squirm, kick and generally protest about going to bed, it’s called fighting sleep. Sometimes it might happen that even after you have followed the bedtime routine just right, your babies fight sleep.
Reasons for fighting sleep:
There can be several reasons why babies fight sleep but mostly it’s because of the following three reasons:
1) Overtired: Overtired babies find it hard to settle down and fall asleep. When a baby is overtired, it means he cannot sleep because of sheer exhaustion. A baby can become overtired if you fail to read the baby’s sleep cues or miss the little one’s sleep window.
Take note to baby’s sleep cues such as yawning, eye rubbing, turning away from lights or sound, fussiness etc. Put them to bed when they are sleepy and tired but be careful not to make them overtired.
2) Under tired: If a baby is happy being awake and is not ready to sleep even when it’s his time to take nap, it means the baby is under tired. An under tired baby will protest sleep all the way. Therefore, it’s important to read baby’s sleep cues and find out if he is ready. Under tired is more common in toddlers than in infants.
3) Separation anxiety: This happens when a baby wants to be close to you and is not ready to leave you. Sleeping is just not the priority for such babies. This usually occurs when babies are around eight or nine months of age.
How to get baby to sleep at night or natural remedies for sleep:
Before following any of the sleep training methods, you should be careful of certain things that might ensure peaceful sleep for the babies. You should develop good sleeping habits in your babies by following the steps below:
1) Regular routine: Put your children to bed at a consistent time each night. Fix a time; say 8pm or 9pm. A consistent 30-to-45 minute baby sleep routine should be followed to help transition your baby from awake time to sleepy time. A bedtime routine encourages healthy baby sleep patterns.
2) Feeding: Feed your baby during the day so that he or she learns that daytime is for eating and night time is for sleeping.
3) Soothing activities before sleep: Before putting your baby on bed, calm your baby with activities such as swaddling, cuddling, bathing, singing a lullaby, playing quiet music and rocking. These soothing activities help them to prepare for sleep.
4) Night-time care: When your baby needs care or feeding during the night, use dim lights, a soft voice and calm movements. This will tell your baby that it’s time to sleep — not play.
5) Daytime activities: Fill your babies daytime awake periods with enough activities and stimulation. Expose your babies to natural light during the day. Allow your bay to have naps during the day.
A well-rested child will sleep better than an overtired one. It seems counterintuitive, but skipping a nap in a hope that they will sleep longer at night simply doesn’t work. This is why regular naps are so essential for getting a baby to sleep.
Baby sleep cycles:
Sleep cycle is often used to describe patterns of wakefulness and sleep in a given time frame, such as 24 hours. Babies’ sleep cycles are very different from adult sleep cycles. A newborn’s sleep cycle is much simpler with only two stages — active (Rapid Eye Movement) and quiet (non- Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
In REM, or active sleep, your baby may move around more and make noises.
In non-REM, quiet sleep, your baby sleeps more deeply.
How long do babies’ sleep:
Newborns sleep 10 to 18 hours per day, more than any other age group. Infants — over three months — sleep nine to 12 hours per day, plus naps. By school age, your child will be sleeping in cycles of 90 to 100 minutes.
Babies sleep for short periods of time, similar to the length of naps adults have. One of the reasons for sleeping for such short time is that they have smaller stomachs and they wake up frequently because they are hungry and need to be fed.
Healthy sleep is very important for your baby and also for you. If your baby isn’t sleeping, you cannot sleep either. Sleep deprivation in children has been linked to obesity, behavioural problems, learning issues and more later on in life.
To combat such negative consequences, one should start an effective sleep-training method that works for your little one. Whatever you decide, remember that sleep training baby is different for everyone. Don’t expect any overnight miracles to happen. If you can maintain patience and consistency, that day is not far when you and your baby will have a good night’s sleep.