Before your baby is born people are quick to tell you that you should “get as much sleep as you can now, you won’t sleep when baby is here” and “remember, sleep when baby sleeps”. The helpful tips will be plentiful, but to be honest, not as helpful as you would hope. For the first few nights, your baby will probably sleep relatively well, as being born can be tiring. You may think you have the perfect baby and can’t understand what everyone was talking about, but of course, it doesn’t last long and soon the sleepless nights and endless wake ups will start.
Now the well-meaning comments will change to “is baby sleeping through yet” and “you need to sleep train”. In this article we will look at the sometimes-controversial topic of sleep training, what it is and some of the sleep training methods you might want to try.
What is sleep training
Sleep training is different for every family and their own individual circumstances. When you sleep train, you are giving your baby the skills and the tools that they need in order to sleep better and on their own in a way that is good for your family.
Sleep training should not be:
- Leaving your baby to cry it out for lengthy periods where they can become distraught
- Neglecting your baby
- Denying your hungry baby milk at night
Start a routine
In our post “How to get a good night’s sleep for kids and babies” we have already mentioned some steps on how to sleep train your baby from birth. The most essential thing that you can do is start a good sleep routine as soon as you can and stick to it.. A good routine is all you need to begin with. A baby is learning all the time while they are so little so take baby steps when it comes to sleep training. At first, it may feel like you’re constantly thinking ‘eat, sleep, train, repeat’, but done correctly you’ll relax into a routine that becomes second nature.
By the time your baby is 6 months old, they will already have gone through quite a few developmental stages, started eating solids and hopefully have settled into a good sleep routine for daytime naps and night time sleep. The current recommendations from the Sleep Foundation experts and the NHS is that sleep training should not begin before your baby is 6 months old. This is because it can take them this long to properly develop their circadian rhythm. So, if you were wondering when to start sleep training, the best answer is that sleep training a 6 month old is best – remember that all babies are different though, and in some cases it may be best to wait a little longer.
Sleep training methods
There are a number of different sleep training methods that you could try. Each one is very different and has its own merits and pitfalls. Read up on them all and decide which one fits most with your parenting style. Some more popular methods include:
- Ferber sleep training – Sometimes referred to as Ferberization, or graduation extinction, is a form of gentle cry it out named after Dr R Ferber. Baby is placed in their bed awake and the parent then leaves the room. If the baby cries the parent returns to the room after a couple of minutes to briefly calm them. The idea is that the crying baby accepts that someone will come when they cry, but that interaction is minimal. Over the next couple of days, the parent should extend the period of time before they reach the child.
- No cry sleep training – This method of sleep training, as the name suggests, involved minimal crying – just the crying that alhelerts you to the fact your baby needs you. The parents should pick up the crying baby to soothe. This is considered to be a more gentler parenting approach and has been popularised by baby experts Elizabeth Pantley and Sarah Ockwell-Smith.
- Sleep nanny – the sleep nanny method promoted by Lucy Shrimpton works on the principle that every child is different and the best way to sleep train is by using a bespoke sleep nanny consultancy service. They can then tailor your sleep programme to work for your child and your family personally.
1 year old
By the time your baby is 1 year old they will be eating more solids and may have dropped most of their milk feeds. They may even be sleeping through the night. However, if they are not, then don’t worry. Every child is different, and they all sleep through the night eventually. Your bedtime routine should be well established and if you have been sleep training then there is a good chance your baby will be getting themselves back to sleep, unless they need you because they need changing or are unwell.