Ready, Set, Sleep Already! How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

Sleep can be a hot button topic. Everyone has an opinion and they aren’t afraid to voice it. But you won’t find any judgment here. We believe no one is right. No one is wrong. The best method is the one that works for your family. So if you’re looking for some guidance, here’s the low-down, quickie guide on sleep training your baby.

General guidelines:

  • Ready, Set, Sleep Already!It’s probably best to wait until four to six months to begin sleep training. Prior to that, your baby isn’t physically ready to sleep ten to twelve hours at night without at least one feeding.
  • Every baby is different. Some are more strong-willed than others. What works for one may not work for another. So don’t compare and despair with your Mommy & Me friends.
  • Begin sleep-training at a time when your family can afford a few sleepless weeks.  It may won’t take that long, but just in case — don’t do it when you’re swamped at work, moving out of state, or hosting your in-laws for the holidays.
  • For optimal chances at success, don’t travel anywhere or plan to move the baby’s bedroom in the first couple months post-successful sleep training. Disruptions to routine can tend to cause a child to regress, and you don’t want to have to start all over again. Trust me!
  • Create a bedtime routine. Bath, books, jammies, lullabies, snuggles — whatever you like.

SLEEP TRAINING METHODS:

Method #1: Parent to Sleep

Philosophy: Make going to sleep a positive experience for your child. Rock, cuddle or nurse your baby to sleep. This will help minimize separation anxiety and will make sleeping a pleasant experience and that association will stay with her the rest of her life.

The Drill: Do whatever it takes to get her to sleep.  Rock, nurse, take a walk with the Ergo or stroller, drive around the block, etc…

Pros:

  • Your baby will love this!
  • You won’t have to hear her cry for extended periods of time
  • Cuddling is great bonding for parents and baby
  • Babies often sleep longer and better with their parents nearby

Cons:

  • It’s a big commitment
  • The longer you wait to get your baby to go to sleep by themselves, the harder it can be if you decide to run a sleep intervention later
  • Most babies don’t magically learn to sleep through the night by themselves until much later (i.e. your three year old may still need you to put them to sleep)

Method #2: No Tears Training

Philosophy: If you stay attuned to your baby’s natural sleep schedule and provide an environment that is optimal for sleep, she will eventually learn to fall asleep by herself with no tears.

The Drill: Make sure you are consistent with your baby’s sleep schedule. Pay attention to her natural cues. Put her down drowsy, but awake. If she starts to cry, pick her up briefly to soothe her until she falls asleep again.

Pros:

  • Baby feels secure and less stressed
  • Parents may feel better soothing a baby that is upset

Cons:

  • No matter how good you are at setting up their environment and following the rules of optimal sleep, this method won’t always work or may take a LONG time to implement.
  • It can be easily disrupted by changes in routine like traveling or daylight savings.

Method #3: Light Tears

Philosophy: You stay in the room and teach your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on her own.

The Drill: Put your baby down in the crib drowsy but awake, and stay in the room until she falls asleep. You can say soothing things, pat her back and “shush” her if she’s upset, but don’t pick her up.

Pros:

  • Your baby feels a little more secure knowing you’re right there
  • Once successful, you should have more time in the evening and get longer stretches of sleep at night.

Cons:

  • Can take much longer
  • It’s easier to “give in” when you’re sitting in the same room as your baby
  • It’s excruciating to just sit there and listen to her cry

Method #4: Cry It Out, Kind of (i.e. Ferberizing)

Philosophy: Babies need help learning how to fall asleep by themselves and this means there will probably be some crying. Although parents can help by soothing the baby with their occasional presence.

The Drill: Let her cry for five minutes. Then go in to reassure her verbally and pat her without picking her up. Then leave and let her cry for ten minutes before going back in. The next time, you wait fifteen minutes. Each time you leave, you wait longer to return.

Pros:

  • With some babies, this method is most efficient way to get baby to fall asleep alone and only lasts a day or two.
  • Once successful, you should have more time in the evening and get less interrupted sleep at night.

Cons:

  • While Ferber is a pediatrician, he’s not a psychologist, so this method doesn’t take into account psychological implications or neurophysical implications of prolonged, sustained periods of crying.
  • Some determined babies will cry for hours, making this technique especially difficult on both everyone.
  • It’s often not a one-shot deal. You may need to repeat it a few times.

Method #5: Cry It Out, For Reals

Philosophy: Let her cry herself to sleep.  Once she learns you’re not coming back in, she’ll go to sleep.

The Drill: Put her in the crib. Say goodnight. Don’t go back in until the morning.  Period.

Pros:

  • Depending on your baby’s temperament, this method can work quickly. Maybe in a night or two.

Cons:

  • Could feel like abandonment to your baby.
  • Very hard to listen to your baby cry for hours and hours.

Whew. There you have it. Being a parent is easy, right? Ha! But don’t sweat it. Just remember to do what feels best for you and your family. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

For ideas on creating an optimal sleep environment for your baby, head over to: Top Harvard Sleep Doctor Weighs in on the Best Products to Get Your Baby to Sleep.

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