Do you regularly have to be present to put your baby to sleep? Do you always have to rock your kid, or initiate skin-to-skin contact so you can soothe him/her enough to close their eyes? We know it can be tiring, overwhelming or worse, can cause sleep deprivation, especially if you are fresh to motherhood. Have you ever thought about ‘sleep training’ your little munchkin? You might have heard of the term, and got intrigued to try it out.
In this article, we will tackle everything you need to know about sleep training your baby! To help us go through this method, we have asked Dra. Chekai Jiao-Fernandez, a Pediatrician and also a Mommy, for medical advice and guidance on how early you can do it, the different methods, and tips on how you can jumpstart into it! So, keep reading as we break it all down for you!
We know for sure that sleeping is indeed an ability. While we adults fall asleep as soon as we hit comfort after a long day at work or carrying your little peanut all-day, and all-night to provide soothe and comfort, your baby cannot just yet. Sleeping is a skill that we need to impart to your baby, and this is where sleep training comes into the picture. Basically, it aspires to teach your baby to fall asleep without any help from you.
Dra. Jiao-Fernandez recommends commencing sleep training when the baby is about four months and older. “At this time, babies are already capable of self-soothing. We can expect them to have longer sleeping hours, with less nighttime awakenings.”, she says. Meaning to say, at this stage, your baby can go on longer nights without feed. But, of course, it’s good to consult your doctor first before you drop your nighttime feeds, as it varies from each baby. She further stressed that although there is no ‘right’ age for sleep training, it is worth noting that as babies grow older, it will be trickier for them to adjust to new routines.
There are multiple ways that you can use for sleep training, but we are giving you a scoop on the popular ones. As we go through these methods, Dra. Jiao-Fernandez highlighted that there is also no fixed formula for sleep training your baby. “it depends per child, and one method might work for one child but might not be suitable for another. Other babies might require a combination of several methods as well”, she apprised.
1. CIO or Cry-It-Out method – also known as the “extinction” method, this technique is where you put your baby to bed at the sleeping time routine you want to establish, leave them alone, and letting them “cry-it-out” until they fall asleep. Considering you have fed and put them in a secured sleeping environment, you can only check on your baby the next morning.
2. Ferber method – Another term for this is the “graduated extinction” method. This is a gentler way of Cry-It-Out where you put your baby to bed, leave them for specific-timed intervals (example: every 10, 15, or 30 minutes) before you check to give comfort until he/she falls asleep. With this method, it is advised not to pick your baby up, but you can reassure your baby with your words, gentle rubs, or pats.
3. Fading Sleep Training method – With this practice, you need to take into consideration their ‘natural’ bedtime. You observe the time when your baby naturally falls asleep on their own, hence keep an eye for the sleep cues so you can put them to bed right away. Then, you can progressively move that time earlier until you reach the favored bedtime.
4. Chair method – This method requires you to sit on a chair next to the crib of the baby without picking him/her up, until he or she falls asleep. Once they have felt the comfort of your presence, slowly move your chair further each night until you reach the door and eventually be out of sight.
Dra. Jiao-Fernandez revealed that there is no specific answer to this as some babies can abruptly adapt to the routine, others might take a few weeks, while to some infants, sleep training may not work.
According to her, it also relies on the following different factors: (1) Child – The individuality of the baby is an essential determinant of the learning process of sleep training. Through this, you can hinge on how quickly they can adapt to a routine, or if they have other health matters to consider. (2) Parents – How consistent are the parents in fulfilling the methods? Also, the attachment, individuality, and or if there are health concerns to take into account. Lastly, (3) Environment – Is your crib placed in a safe, conducive sleeping environment? Where do they sleep – in a bed or in a crib? Learning these factors can help you take into account if sleep training will work for your little one.
1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine – You are introducing something new to your baby, so it is best to establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time daily to achieve results. It would also be beneficial to create a system to hover a stage for sleep. Dra. Jiao-Fernandez advised, “You can start a 20 to a 30-minute routine that is the same every night to set the stage for sleep. It can include calm activities beginning with a calming warm bath, followed by other soothing activities such as singing a lullaby or reading a book, or giving your baby a massage“. The latter should take place in the sleeping area, so your little one can link it to sleep and relaxation.
2. Create a pleasant sleeping environment – Of course, while you teach your baby to sleep, you have to assure that the room ambiance is conducive for sleeping. Set an appropriate temperature, ensure the bed is comfortable and safe, no room for unnecessary noises, and dim the lights. Okay, so how about if your baby is sharing a room with a sibling? Dra. Jiao-Fernandez reassured that “Co-sleeping is a common and accepted practice in a lot of cultures, especially for Filipino families, and if you choose to do so, it is okay.”
3. Keep track of naps – While napping is beneficial, it might not help you put them to sleep at night. No, we are not saying to scrap off naps completely, but make sure to observe and trace. If you can, try short naps during the day, and avoid putting them in very long siestas especially close to bedtime.
4. Be sensitive for sleeping cues – Does your baby keep on yawning or rubbing their eyes when they are tired? Those might be signals that your baby is sleepy! Watch out for these signs and do not wait for them to get cranky, as it will be harder for you to put them to sleep!
5. Every baby is unique – Yes, sleep training is not spared to this saying. Dra. Jiao-Fernandez iterated that sleep training varies in every baby’s nature and development. To some, they can adapt smoothly to new routines but it may not be the same scenario for others. Hence do not be dismayed easily. If you want to start sleep training your little one, and unsure of when and where to start, it is best to consult your pediatrician for proper intervention.