Sleep training is the process of helping your baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Some babies do this quickly and easily. Others may have a hard time settling down to sleep or getting back to sleep once they’ve wakened.
Most experts recommend starting to sleep train when your baby is between 4 and 6 months old. By this time, most babies have started to develop a regular sleep-wake cycle and dropped most of their nighttime feedings. Many babies at this age are developmentally able to sleep for long stretches at night.
So how can you set the stage for sleep training? Here’s a few suggestions.
Introduce a bedtime routine: You can start when your baby is as young as 6 weeks old. A routine may include a warm bath, a book, and a lullaby before putting her to bed.
Pick a consistent bedtime: Pick a bedtime between 7 and 8 o’clock so your baby isn’t overtired and fighting sleep.
Follow a predictable daytime schedule: Wake your baby at the same time every morning. Feed him and put him down for a nap at the same time every day. This predictability will help him relax and feel secure.
Here are a few different sleep training approaches.
Cry it Out:
This method suggests putting your baby to bed when he’s still awake and allowing short periods of crying punctuated by comforting (but not picking up) your child. Do not let your baby cry indefinitely.
This is a more gradual approach where you soothe your baby to sleep and offer comfort right away when your child cries.
This is where you gradually diminish your bedtime role by sitting near your baby until she falls asleep and gradually moving your chair further away from the crib each night. You can also check on your baby and reassure her (without picking her up) every five minutes until she falls asleep.
There is also a method known as the five S’s: swalling, side or stomach position (for calming your baby, not for sleeping), shushing, swinging, and sucking.
The goal is to give your child time to figure out how to soothe herself. Most parents decide to try a particular method because they’re exhausted or frustrated with their child’s sleep habits and nothing they’ve tried seems to work. But if you’re happy with the way things are going, continue what you’re doing.
Some children are naturally good sleepers, while others are naturally fussy and may need more structure. Keep in mind that after sleep training is over, your child may still regress occasionally, like when she is sick or when you are travelling.
So what worked for me? I allowed Olivia to cry it out for short periods of time. I mostly followed the five S’s and no tears approach and they worked beautifully. Olivia is now 20 months old and has been sleeping for 12 hours at night since she was 10 months old.