When you become a parent, sleepless nights are part of the package. Your own concept of rest has evolved into restlessness as you spend most of the night and wee hours of the morning caring for your night crawler of a kid. Sure, a parent’s top priority should be the baby, but when you operate on little to no sleep yourself, it could also prevent you from functioning at your best while caring for him during the day. When all hope is lost, don’t fret–here are some ways to train your little one to willfully go towards dreamland so you can finally catch some much-needed zzz’s.
1. “The Art of DEDMA”
Recommended for babies six months and older, letting your baby cry himself to exhaustion and sleep is a much-debated topic in parenting circles. This involves the parent saying goodnight to the baby, setting him down in his crib, leaving the room, and never coming back… until morning. The idea is to not “rescue” the baby, even if he wakes up and cries out in the middle of the night. He will eventually tire out and go back to sleep on his own. The cries will be hard to ignore, and you will often find yourself behind the door and hating yourself for not swooping back in, but experts say that it will only take a few days before the baby gets used to calming himself and nodding off.
2. “I still have a heart”
Think of this one as the “I will let you cry, but I will console you, don’t worry” method. When the baby wakes up and cries (even after you’ve just put him down minutes ago), you will come back in and soothe the baby with your voice and gentle reassuring pats. Time intervals are key to this method, because you are just going in to check on him but not to feed or carry him again. Experts recommend this for babies seven months and up, and say that it could take at least a week for it to work.
3. “Let’s sit and talk a while”
If the cry-it-out method is brutal, this one might be a runner-up. Supposedly less stressful, this involves the parent sitting down beside the baby’s crib until they fall asleep. Ideally, the baby will not reach out to try to touch you, but in reality, he will. This takes a lot more willpower because your baby can see that you are avoiding him on purpose. When they fall asleep, you will leave the room, but when they wake, you will come back and sit with them. Each night, you will inch the chair further away until you don’t even need to sit inside the room any more. No touch therapy involved in this one either.
4. “Slowly, but surely”
You can either reduce the amount of time you spend on your usual bedtime routine, such as bathing, feeding, and rocking the baby to sleep… or you can move the bottle-feeding or nursing before the bathing part so as not to let the baby fully associate being milk drunk as a requirement for sleeping. You can also use the Fade method by moving the baby’s bedtime to an earlier schedule slowly but surely. This might prove to be a challenge as the baby ages.
5. “No baby, no cry”
This is a method wherein you will allow yourself to be there for the baby when he needs you, and you will pick him up and shush him back to sleep when necessary. The parent allows herself to still work as the baby’s soother, but timing is everything! You have to set the baby back down when he is at the right point of drowsiness, and not when he has fallen asleep. However, if the baby is around seven months old, seeing you inside the room will probably excite him again, and this will make falling back to sleep harder for the both of you.
It is important to note that nighttime sleep training shouldn’t be started on too early especially when the newborn’s frequent nursing schedule is still being established. Most experts would recommend starting at six months, but some parents even start training their kids at the age of 2. Of course, that also brings up the difficulty level.
The important things to note are the following:
- Keep a sleep/nap log to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Routine is key. Bedtime routines help the baby get settled, and bedtime schedules help normalize sleep for them.
- Keep a firm resolve. It won’t work until you can learn to have discipline too.
- Have a positive attitude and identify your intentions! Remember, you are doing this for the baby and your sanity. You can do this!