Baby Sleep Training: What You Need to Know

Baby Sleep Training: What You Need to Know

Nicolette Harris |

There are few things in life more exciting than bringing a baby into this world. Becoming a parent is full of challenges, including basic child development necessities such as baby sleep training.

This article takes a look at important tips for newborn sleep training that will make your job as a mother, or father, far less stressful and exhausting. Keep reading to discover insight that will allow you to relax a bit while your infant gets the quality sleep they need each and every day and night.

What Is Baby Sleep Training?

The term "sleep training" is an umbrella term that refers to a spectrum of approaches to help babies learn to fall asleep by themselves

Everyone needs a full night of restful sleep in order to be happy and healthy. It's well-known and published that the human brain needs quality sleep across the different sleep stages to operate at its most efficient level.

And yet we aren't born understanding when or how to self settle and get to sleep. That's why babies need sleep training. This is simply teaching your newborn baby sleep habits that will you baby self settle and link sleep cycles . When your baby gets the right amount of sleep they'll be rested and less irritable and allow you to focus on fun playtime and other important developmental tasks.

When Should You Start?

The experts are not in total agreement about when is the best time to start sleep training. Some recommend from birth, when using a responsive settling or hands-on technique while others advice to hold off until 4-6 month mark before embarking sleep training. For babies older than about 10 months, behaviour starts coming into play (as does separation anxiety!). The key is, from as early as possible, start by helping your baby learn the difference between day and night and not develop any undesirable sleep associations.

Choosing the Best Sleep Training Technique for Your Baby

There are several sleep training techniques that are commonly used and known to be effective.

Responsive Settling / Hands On-Settling. This is a variation of the 'fading' method. This is where you don't leave the room until your baby is calm and dozing off. Highly Recommended

Controlled Comforting or Controlled Crying. This involves intermittently going into the room. This method only recommended for babies OVER 6 Months

Cry it out method. This is a controversial method that some parents swear by and other think it is cruel. In this method, you put your baby to bed and leave the room and let them cry themselves to sleep. This method should only be used when babies are over 6 Months old.

Take time to read up and learn about the different methods. Some Mum's find the sound of their baby crying to be extremely distressing and anxious. If this is you, the responsive settling / hands-on settling technique is going to be your best option, however it is important for you to experiment and use whatever sleep training method produces the best results for you and your baby.

How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Need?

Sleep plays an important role in your infants mental and physical health. Below is a guide to hour many hours they need. It is estimated 25-50% of children / babies have sleep problems, so you are not alone if your child's sleep is different to the below table.

Baby Sleep Guide

Top Ten Sleep Training Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

  1. Learning to understand your baby's tired signed. Moving bedtime forward or back an hour or two could help.
  2. Being inconsistent. The key is to be patient and consistent in your approach to bedtime and use positive reinforcement. 
  3. Starting sleep training too late. A good guide is to start between you should start sleep training between 2-6 months of age. Keep in mind that every baby will respond differently to the training process.
  4. Undesirable sleep associations. Things like dummies, rocking your baby to sleep in your arms to sleep then placing them in the cot, only for them to wake up and you have to start all-over again. Patting them to sleep, won't sleep without been patted. A sleep association is anything that the people relies on to get to sleep and expects when they wake up in the middle of the night to get back to sleep.
  5. Undiagnosed medical conditions. If your baby is unable to sleep, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
  6. Pick the right time to start sleep training. Don't start sleep training your baby right before a vacation or any other disruptive event. It is recommended to have at absolute minimum 7 days of exactly the same routine in the same environment to have any chance of success
  7. Feeding your baby every time they wake up. Keep in mind that beyond 6 months, most children don't require nighttime feeds as their stomachs hold more milk or they have started solids, and like adults don't wake up hungry in the middle of the night if they have eaten an dinner.
  8. Inadequate sleep environment. It's a good idea to create a separate baby room where they won't be disturbed.
  9. Knowing when to move your baby to their own room. This part of the process can be challenging. You need to consider the age you begin sleep training and the above point 7.
  10. Transitioning to a bed prematurely. It's important to wait until your child is 2.5-3 years of age before moving them to a bed.
  11. Dealing with the "Extinction Burst". This is a term that refers to behaviour that gets worse before getting better. The key is to be able to check on your child without obsessively hovering nearby.

Sleep Training Tools

Now let's discuss some useful sleep training tools that can make the process go a bit smoother. 

Bedtime Routine

Establishing a bedtime routine that your baby becomes familiar with and is predictable for them.This is a very important sleep training tool. Bedtime routines help and encourage positive sleep associations. Consistency in your newborn baby sleep routine will help your child to relax and fall asleep much easier because she knows what to expect. Just remember that consistency is comforting.

As mentioned previously, you may need to slightly adjust bedtime to be earlier or later. The key is to use a consistent routine before bed and continually review bedtime so that they are sleepy once you put them in their cot.

Baby Sleep Log Book

When you start sleep training it is a good idea to keep a baby sleep log. This is the ideal tool for tracking your baby's sleep schedule. Any type of notebook will work. The key is to start by tracking their sleep for one week. This includes the time they go to sleep and how long they sleep for both daytime and nighttime. It's important to record the specific sleep times as well as any behaviour during these hours, such as if the child was fussy, cried out for attention, or the amount of time it to settle your baby before your baby fell asleep.

Mum's and Dad's

As parents you are armed with a number of sleep training tools, that when used correctly will help teach your baby to self settle, which in turn assists them to start sleeping through the night. Things like your voice (shh'ing) and your touch (hand placed on them or very gentle patting or rocking in the cot) are excellent tools. When needed your comforting hold and cuddles are the ultimate sleep place for your baby but they need to learn to sleep off you.

It's also a good idea to invest in a quality baby swaddle wraps for comfort and Baby Monitors so that you can listen for disruptions in their sleep from another room in the house.

Raising a newborn isn't easy. Fortunately, these child development tips will help you establish a reliable sleep schedule so that you and your baby can be as rested as possible.

All the information above has been sourced from a number of reputable sources with a touch of our own experience as bunch of Mum's who work at Bespoke Baby.All our babies suffered from sleep problems until they were sleep trained and most of us sort professional help for the sleep training of our babies.

Here are some excellent sources for your perusal.

  • Raising Children Network
  • Tresillian
  • Karitane
  • Safe Sleep Space

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