Since October is Halloween month, I thought it would be fitting to talk about something that feels scary... Sleep Training. The phrase "sleep training" has a bad reputation. For starters, parents don't love the association between the words "training" and "babies" and secondly, sleep training has been linked to the "cry it out" method, which rightfully so, sounds frightening. Great News: there are a lot of very supportive and gentle ways to help a baby learn to fall asleep independently. Let me break this all down for you:
What Is Sleep Training?
Sleep Training is the practice of helping children develop healthy sleep habits and learn how to fall asleep independently. There are many ways to do this — some very gentle and some more direct. It all boils down to the parents level of intervention (how involved they are in the process).
Why Do We Do It?
Babies are not born knowing how to self-soothe. It is a learned skill. If a baby knows how to self-soothe, they will have an easy time falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. If not, they may have trouble merging sleep cycles and need to be rocked, nursed, etc. to fall back asleep. This applies to naps and night time sleep.
When Can I Sleep Train?
At 4 months, babies switch from newborn sleep cycles to adult-like sleep cycles. At that point, babies are developmentally mature enough to self-sooth and are able to take longer stretches of sleep during the night. Important note: sleep training does not mean you are removing night feedings. Please speak to your pediatrician before implementing any sleep training.
What Are The Benefits?
1. The best bonding happens when both baby and parents are well rested.
2. Babies that sleep well have higher cognitive scores and are less likely to be diagnosed with conditions like adhd.
3. When a baby knows how to sleep through the night, it makes it easier for parents to know what a baby needs if they do cry out in the middle of the night.
What Are The Different Sleep Training Methods?
1. High Support: Caregiver stays in the room and provides support until the baby falls asleep.
2. Moderate Support: Caregiver checks in on the baby and provides some support until baby falls asleep.
3. Low Support: Caregiver provides no involvement and minimal support while baby falls asleep.
What's My Take On It?
I like to fall somewhere between high and moderate support. A lot of factors come into play while I find the best fit for the family and the child.
Sleep Training should be about building trust with your baby, not about extinguishing or manipulating changes in a behavior. You should do what feels right for YOU. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.