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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.

At around 4-5 months old, babies begin consolidating naps. At that point, we can start shifting away from following their wake windows (the amount of time they've been awake between sleep periods) and start implementing a flexible schedule. Please see below for some tips on how to improve those short and inconsistent naps! How many naps should my baby be taking? 4-5 Months: Four or three naps - inconsistent and short naps are normal 5-8 Months: Three naps - 8:30/9am, 12/1pm, 3/4:30pm 8-15 Months: Two naps - 9:30am, 1:30/2pm *These are simply averages and can vary between child What is considered a good nap? A good quality nap should be at least an hour in length. Anything under an hour is considered a short nap. (This applies to all naps except the third nap of the day for 5-8 month olds, which is usually under an hour in length.) How can we extend those short naps? You want to set your baby up for success when helping them learn a new skill. Focus on improving the external factors you can control to help make sleep easier. Some of my tips may sound extreme, but you wouldn't teach your toddler to walk on a cobblestone street, right? Same goes for sleep! Once your baby is sleeping better naps, you can begin pulling back on some of the suggestions below. 1. Optimal Sleep Space: Dark: Fully blackout the room during naps. Light suppresses melatonin so a dark room is crucial to help a baby take longer naps. Quiet: Use a white noise machine. Noise can interrupt sleep. Cool: Keep the room at a nice 69-72 Degrees Fahrenheit. Babies sleep best in cool temperatures, but make sure to dress your baby appropriately so they don't get cold. Extra tip - have your baby wear the same thing during naps and nighttime. 2. Drowsy But Awake: Place your baby in the crib when they are drowsy, but still awake. You want your baby to know how and where they fell asleep. Once your baby knows how to fall asleep independently, they will have an easier time merging sleep cycles during naps and improving nap length and quality. 3. Naptime Routine: Moving a baby from stimulation straight to the crib can feel rushed and unsettling. Doing a modified bedtime routine (approx. 5 mins long) will help your baby slow down and feel prepared for sleep. Take your baby into the room, dim the lights, sing a song, or read a book. This can help with the transition from play to sleep and make nap time easier. 4. Take A Pause: If your baby takes a short nap, try to 'Take A Pause' and leave your baby in the crib for 5-10 mins longer. This will help your baby lengthen short naps and increase the likelihood of merging naptime sleep cycles. 5. The 4 C's: Follow the 4 C's below to help during any sleep challenges. Calm - regulate yourself so your baby can too Confident - trust yourself and the process Connected - fill up your baby's connection and love cup during the day Consistent - predictability and repetition are key

What is the 4 month sleep regression? To start, I like to call it a progression instead of a regression because when your baby is going through this "sleep regression", it means your baby's sleep cycles are maturing properly and your baby is developing appropriately. Here's the info: The Science: Once babies hit 3-4 months of age, their sleep cycles move from newborn sleep cycles into adult-like sleep cycles. At the end of each of these "new sleep cycles", there is a mini "wake-up”. If your baby knows how to put themselves back to sleep after that mini "wake-up” then merging sleep cycles may be seamless and a "sleep regression" may never happen. If your baby does not know how to put themselves back to sleep independently, these "new sleep cycles" can cause some sleep disturbances. The Regression: Aside from your baby's sleep cycles maturing and possibly affecting their sleep, at around 4 months, babies become much more social and aware of their surroundings. Sleep doesn’t seem as fun as everything else going on outside the crib, which may cause your baby to protest sleep. The Solutions: If your baby has developed the skills to fall asleep independently beforehand, then you may never deal with a 4 month regression, but if you do run into a sleep regression, here are a few things you can do: 1. Drowsy but Awake — Practice putting your baby in the crib when they are drowsy, but still awake so they are aware of their surroundings and learn the skills to fall asleep independently. 2. Daytime Feedings — At this age, babies tend to get distracted easily while feeding. If this happens, move feedings to a quiet and less stimulating environment to make sure your baby is feeding well during the day instead of needing the calories at overnight. 3. Take a Pause — If your baby starts crying during sleep, give them a few seconds to resettle before intervening. They may surprise you and fall right back to sleep without your help! 4. Practice The 4 C's — Keep this in the back of your mind when dealing with sleep struggles: Calm (regulate yourself so your baby can too) Confident (trust yourself and the process) Connected (fill up your baby's connection and love cup during the day) Consistent (predictability and repetition are key)