Sleep Training Doesn’t Have To Be A Form of Torture For You Or Your Baby
Babies need sleep and are known for sleeping a lot—yet so many parents claim the worst thing about parenting is a lack of it. By the age of six months, a baby is capable of sleeping through the night. So why do so many parents struggle to get their babies to do this?
Despite every parent’s deep-seated desire to get more shut-eye, many view sleep training as a form of inhumane torture, which is just not true. Sleep training does not mean your child cries alone in the dark all night long. It simply means teaching your child to fall asleep on their own. They may cry for an hour before falling asleep but you can go in every 15 minutes to reassure them (without picking them up or turning on the lights), tuck them in, kiss them, and say goodnight.
From my personal experience, here are a few simple ideas to naturally encourage your baby to sleep more:
Babies need to be tired when they go to bed. Babies who are not stimulated with music, outside time or sensory play may have a difficult time sleeping because they are simply not tired.
Do not allow your baby to sleep as much as they want whenever they want during the day. Limit nap times—I always let my baby nap up to an hour in the morning and up to 3 hours in the afternoon. As a result, she is always ready for bed at her bedtime of 7 pm and will sleep 12-13 hours a night.
Babies need to learn that their beds are relaxing places to be. Bedtime should never be a punishment; it’s a soothing place where favorite toys and special blankets remain, a favorite story is read or a special song is sung. Make a special bedtime routine your baby will enjoy.
If your baby is over six-months-old, is in the habit of getting up multiple times at night, unable to sleep, or if you are at your wits' end and need more sleep, sleep training is for you.
The sleep training process can be extremely hard on parents. Why? Chances are, you’ll probably feel terrible leaving your baby when they are crying. Sleep training is a process and takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to cement into a routine, but stay consistent and soon your baby will happily sleep through the night and...so will you!
My Sleep Training Techniques
I find it helpful to run the vacuum, do the dishes, or take a shower. Engaging in activity that blocks out the noise of crying can help you remain strong and avoid giving in and taking your baby out of their crib. Every 10-15 minutes have a listen and if your baby is still crying, make an evaluation; is it winding down, is it full force, are they whimpering and almost asleep? Then decide the next step.
The 10 Minute Rule
When my baby was quite young (five months onward) I followed the 10-minute rule if I heard her crying at night. I would wait 10 minutes (I had to watch the clock because 1 minute would seem like an hour) and 95% of the time she fell back asleep on her own in that time frame. Following the 10-minute rule allowed me to learn the difference between her cries of stress and simply crying a bit in her sleep. As adults, we often make noises in our sleep and babies are just the same. Usually, they aren’t fully awake and will go back to sleep on their own. So instead of racing in the moment I heard her, I would force—and I do mean force—myself to give her the opportunity to put herself back to sleep.
The Waiting Game
When babies wake, you don’t have to fly into their room and get them up at the first sound. I do the opposite. When I hear her wake, I go and make her breakfast then I go and get her up. She ends up waiting 10-15 minutes and is always happy as can be, reading her books in her crib.
I always make sure she has some books and a favorite toy she can play with while she waits for me. She doesn’t cry endlessly, she is patient. She is confident that I will come and get her and she enjoys herself while she waits for me. Sometimes, she actually dozes off again for a few minutes.
Our household is happy and calm because everyone is always well rested. Sleeping is no joke and I take mine and my baby’s very seriously. You can get back to sleeping well too—I promise you!
These insights are my opinion derived from my personal experiences as a new mom. For more information and guidance on the cry-it-out method, check out this article.