While having a baby "sleep through the night" is something all new parents aspire to, in reality, most babies wake frequently up to 12 months of age. The goal for parents is to teach their baby to put himself back to sleep. Here are the top two current sleep-training methods best started between 4 and 6 months of age.
According to a 2016 broad study of sleep-training involving babies, no evidence was found that it is harmful to a baby's future well-being. Source: Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Here are the top two sleep-training methods currently being used by parents:
CRY IT OUT (CIO)
The idea behind the cry-it-out method is to not respond to your baby’s crying. This is the most controversial sleep-training method of all (even experts disagree on whether or not it is acceptable). If you can’t stand hearing your baby cry, this is not a method for you.
HOW TO DO IT
Go through a soothing bedtime routine that includes a warm bath, a bedtime story and a feeding, then put Baby in his crib awake, say good night and leave.
Some pediatricians suggest parents wait for at least one or two wake-ups before going back into the room. Be mindful of when your baby last ate to know if he needs another feeding; always provide the nighttime feedings your baby needs.
The CIO method is difficult at first; hearing your baby cry will help you know if it’s for you or not, because it involves several nights of crying, but less and less crying as days progress. Read more about the method at whattoexpectthefirstyear.com.
This is when you stay in the room with the baby while he tries to fall asleep while gradually withdrawing your presence.
HOW TO DO IT
Go through your soothing bedtime routine then put Baby down on his back. Shush him, then quickly and gently pat his tummy to calm and reassure him that all is OK.
You can let him fuss a little, but if it starts to escalate, pick him up to soothe him before putting him back down, shushing and patting before he falls asleep. Sit by Baby’s bedside.
A CAMP OUT SCHEDULE:
• Days 1 - 3:
Stand by Baby’s crib and gently rub or pat his tummy.
• Days 4 - 6:
Sit by your baby’s bedside but don’t touch him.
• Days 7 - 9:
Move your chair half way between Baby’s bed and the door.
• Days 10 - 12:
Sit in a chair by the door to the room.
• Days 13 - 15:
Sit outside the door, but where Baby can see you.
• Days 16 - 18:
Comfort verbally, out of sight.
Read more about the Camp Out method at nestedbean.com.
While these methods can work really well for younger babies, after six or seven months, your presence might make your baby more upset. Picking him up and putting him back down will likely be too much stimulation. As your baby gets older and his sleep needs change, make sure that you’re aware and adjusting with him.
Sleep-training is never a “one-and-done” endeavour. Once your baby has the skills to fall asleep on his own, he’ll still need routines, consistency and help adapting when life throws curveballs like starting day care, moving, going on a trip, etc. Colds, illnesses, teething and more can also throw a wrench into your schedule. The trick is to get back on track as soon as possible. If you start allowing or enabling bad habits and sleep associations, it will take longer to return to the regular routine.
Do your research, talk to your pediatrician and find out what works for Baby and you. No one can argue the benefits of a good night’s sleep, for babies and exhausted parents alike.