Guest Editor Natalie Willes from BabySleepTrainer.com gives us some helpful insights about sleep training.
What is Sleep Training?
Did you know that when you use the term “sleep training”, it’s likely you and whoever you’re talking to have different definitions of what that term means? Even clinicians tend to have their own understanding of what it means to sleep train a baby. Many families equate sleep training mainly with cutting nighttime feedings, while others hear the term and think “Cry it Out.” But what does sleep training actually mean?
What Does it Mean?
So far, Baby Sleep Trainer has helped over 10,000 families (and counting) teach their children how to sleep through the night and take healthy naps. While there is no standard definition of what sleep training is, my extensive experience has taught me that sleep training is about one main thing - a child’s ability to fall asleep on their own with zero sleep props. It is normal for humans to wake slightly as they connect one sleep cycle to the next. Adults, and children who are independent sleepers, are able to connect sleep cycles without waking all the way up. Or, when we do wake normally overnight, we are able to fall back asleep on our own. If an infant or toddler doesn’t know how to go from being wholly awake to wholly asleep 100% on their own (without relying on sleep props or caretakers), then they will not know how to put themselves back to sleep as they wake overnight. As a child attains the skill of falling asleep on their own through sleep training, an age appropriate napping and eating schedule ensure continued healthy sleep habits. But, an age appropriate schedule alone will do nothing to help a child sleep better at night, if they don’t already know how to fall asleep on their on at the onset of sleep.
When Can You Start?
Studies show that the hormone (melatonin) necessary for consistent daytime and nighttime sleep patterns does not regulate until about 16 weeks of age, starting from a child’s due date. Prior to that time, it’s best to assist your child to sleep so that they, and the parent, get as much sleep as possible. Attempting sleep training on a newborn is unnecessary, and often emotionally difficult for both the infant and the mother.
How Do You Do It?
Sleep training can be accomplished most quickly, and with the least amount of overall tears, by parents preparing ahead of time to take on training with a plan. A parent should aim to start at bedtime, ensuring they have are prepared to keep their infant alert during their bedtime feeding, which can occur 30 minutes before bedtime. The feeding should be followed by a brief routine (with the feeding and routine not exceeding 30 combined minutes). Finally, the parent should put their child down alert in their crib. As a child protests the process of falling asleep on their own, parents should be prepared with a plan for when to check in, how often, and for how to manage nighttime feeds. The next day, parents should continue with training their child to fall asleep on their own for naps. Baby Sleep Trainer provides affordable online courses with hands-on support so that families can be successful on their first attempt at train. Done properly, nighttime sleep should improve measurably within 2-3 nights of starting training, and naps typically come together within about 1-2 weeks.
To read our guide on sleep training for babies, click HERE!