It is important to think about sleep training by the time your baby is between 4-6 months of age. This age is best because they will still not haven’t gotten used to falling asleep by rocking or nursing. If you delay sleep training, you might be aiding your child to develop behavioral sleep disorders or insomnia (Read more about behavioral sleep insomnia here.
Before starting any sleep training method it is important to have a routine in place, including a bedtime routine. Some experts recommend feeding, a bath and then a massage or story. Doing the feeding at the beginning of the bedtime routine will help not associate it with bedtime. It is also important to make sure your child isn’t under tired or overtired, as well as that they are getting enough stimulation and activity during the day.
Some popular sleep training methods include:
The Ferber Method – or the check and console method. Remember not to rock or nurse your baby, but continuously enter their bedroom and console them with loving words, giving them a rub on the back or other form of touch. Try not to pick your baby up but continuously check on them to console them so as not to feel abandoned. This is especially important for younger babies who do not understand object permanence.
Cry it out/Extinction – this is probably the most well-known and controversial sleep training method. It can be difficult for parents to ignore their baby’s crying and it can take days to show results. Experts recommend trying the cry it out method for at least a week before determining its effectiveness. This method includes leaving your baby despite crying until the morning unless they need a nighttime feeding.
The Chair Method – this sleep training method involves putting your baby to sleep and after laying them down, sitting in a chair next to their crib or bed until they have fallen asleep. If they do wake up during the night, calmy come back into their room and sit back down in the chair. You will gradually move the chair farther and farther away over the course of a week or two until the chair is out of the room.
Other sleeping training methods can include picking up your child and soothing them, but putting them back in the crib before they fall asleep. It is best to let them fuss and if their fussiness escalates it is suggested to comfort them. However, picking up and putting your baby back down can be too much stimulation for them.
If your baby is older or has already developed some behavioral sleep associations or behaviors, the bedtime-routine fading can help. If you nursed or rocked your baby to sleep, simply start to do it less and less over time until ideally you don’t have to do it at all.
To be honest, sleep training is difficult and it’s been hit or miss in our household. My older daughter who is almost four is recently learning to sleep in her own bed and room. She still wakes up once during the night and comes to my room and I explain how she has to sleep in her room and most nights she goes back to her room to sleep on her own or with assistance. Her bedtime routine includes taking off her clothes, reading a story or two, and slowly we have been working on falling asleep alone.
She has never had a room of her own and was used to co-sleeping with someone whether it was her dad, aunt, grandmother or myself. My younger daughter, who is nearly one, was accustomed to falling asleep on her own (although when feeding) and staying in her bed and room until the middle of the night alone. However, during her 9-month sleep regression all our progress was lost. We have some bad bouts of teething and she seems almost uncomfortable sleeping through the night which causes her to regularly move around and cry. Going forward I personally think we will need the Bedtime Fading Method to eliminate her association of bedtime with feeding and then implement the Ferber Method.
When starting a bedtime routine don’t forget to include a Storybook massage. It’s a great way to relax your little one and prepare them to sleep. One of the greatest benefits of infant massage is increased melatonin production and better sleep quality. Try Storybook out today to help you little one get the sleep they need.
Remember, if your little one sleeps better, so do you.