The one thing new parents worry about when caring for a newborn is that babies don’t know the difference between days and nights. Not to mention, there is no schedule that can be set with a newborn. That can be done only once the baby starts to grow and mature. Usually, by the time the baby is 6 to 8 weeks old, he starts getting the days and nights correct. This is the time when parents can start setting schedules for their babies. If you are a new and overwhelmed parent, this baby sleep training guide will definitely be of help!
What Exactly Is Baby Sleep Training?
When hearing about baby sleep training, many people might think that parents just leave their baby cry to sleep each night. In fact, many may think it has a cruel association due to that. However, sleep training is not about allowing your baby to cry him or herself to sleep every night. There is a process to this, and it is not nearly as cruel as some may think.
Sleep training does not involve getting rid of your baby’s feedings each night either. However, once babies start getting their days and nights together, and once they are really ready to start sleeping through the night – then they won’t need to have the middle of the night feedings.
When To Start Sleep Training Your Baby
This is a question asked by many new parents. They have no idea when to start or even how to start. Online sources state that parents should begin teaching their babies how to sleep on their own at 8 weeks old. This is generally true. However, that varies depending on the baby’s date of birth. If they were born 8 weeks early, then they will be that much further behind in development. The best time to start would be when they are 16 weeks. If the baby was born at 38 weeks and seems to be hitting small milestones like smiling, there is no need to adjust this, so you can start to sleep train him at 8 weeks old.
How To Start The Sleep Training Process
The first step every parent needs to take when starting the sleep training process is consulting their pediatrician. If the pediatrician gives the parent the green light, the next thing to do is make a plan.
Allow your baby to sleep in a place where he or she is meant to sleep. If your baby has a nursery, then the crib is the best place to start. If you sleep with your baby, the same applies. Also, make sure that the room where the baby sleeps is darkened, has very little noise, and it is cool.
If you don’t have blackout shades, you will need to get them because this is an important part of the training plan. Make sure that the temperature of the room is set between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. White noise machines are also helpful in lulling the baby to sleep. Therefore, it is a good idea to invest in one.
The Bedtime Routine
Now that we have established this part, it is time to create a bedtime routine. The last thing you want to do is feed your baby close to bedtime. He could start associating the feeding with going to bed. Of course, don’t leave him to bed hungry. If your baby is well-fed long before bedtime, then he should be fine. Remember that your newborn grows fast, and he will be able to take in fewer feedings because of the growth.
Another important part of the routine is getting some baby books and start learning different lullabies. Before putting your baby to sleep, read him a short story, sing a lullaby, then leave the room. You can always give your baby a bath before starting this. You can even make bathtime as part of the routine since bedtime will follow that.
Do Not Give In
Your baby may be wide awake when you put him or her into the crib. He might even start crying. Whatever you do, do not give in. If the baby is wailing, go into the room, pick him up for a minute, and then put him back into the crib. If you are worried about your baby hurting himself by getting overly worked up, stay in the room but don’t pick him up. This approach is gentler. You can start using this rule if you are starting the sleep training at 8 weeks (or what would be the equivalent of that based on how early your baby was born).
Once the baby is a little older and the routine has been established (your baby seems to get that night time means sleep time), you can give your baby more of a “tough love” approach. Especially if he or she is trying to manipulate you into giving in. That means you won’t be in the room when the baby is crying. You won’t be picking the baby up at all either. However, you can come into the room just to check on him occasionally.
This method is best only if your baby has already been sleep-trained for the most part, and is fighting sleep for whatever reason.
How to Teach Your Baby The Difference Between Day And Night
As your baby grows, he or she will grasp the nights and days on their own. However, to help him get it quicker, make the daytime as bright and noisy as possible. Allow the TV to blare and keep the windows uncovered. Talk to your friends on the phone loudly during the day. By night time, dim the lights, keep the TV off, and whisper. It will help your baby understand the difference between day and night.
Allow your baby to have naps during the day, even though you want him to be tired at night. Have him nap in the crib or bassinet. Depriving your baby of daytime naps will actually impede the sleep training progress.
Do Not Worry if Sleep Regression Happens
Sleep regression might happen during babyhood. It can happen even when your child starts going to preschool. Even if your baby has finally gotten his or her days and nights together and has been sleeping for 6 hours a night right through, but all of a sudden is getting up every few hours like he did right after birth, as frustrating as it is, he did not lose the ability to understand the difference between day and night. It is just a sleep regression that will go away. As the name implies, baby sleep training is a process.
I had to deal with sleep regressions with both my kids. It was very frustrating, but we got over it soon as both of them got back on track with the sleeping schedule.
My advice for parents would be to stay consistent. If you have to retrain your baby, then that is the best thing to do. Your baby will understand and will get back on track. Good luck!
Miriam Slozberg is a blogger, astrologer and freelance writer. Canadian mom of three, she writes about pregnancy and parenting, mental health, relationships and spirituality. Miriam is an advocator for mental health. She aims to help break the stigma that surrounds it.