All soon-to-be parents have heard it before – the not so original tip to “Sleep now while you can! Because babies will turn your world upside down!”.
And yea, you might laugh because it’s true. But nothing can really prepare you for those first few weeks when newborn sleep is all over the place.
Every parent’s focus is always the same: survive until your baby can sleep through the night.
Those nights where you can barely see straight, feeding in the dark and staring at the monitor just hoping your little one doesn’t wake up... they’re brutal.
But there comes a time when you have to decide what to do long term. Will you forever be getting up every few hours to feed, rock, burp and pat baby to sleep again? When do babies sleep through the night anyway?
Is sleep training bad? Maybe you’ve read about it and the idea left you uneasy. Pretty much all sleep training involves having to endure hearing your baby cry in protest.
And you hate to hear your little one cry.
How can you possibly win at this? Helping baby learn to self soothe without messing them up for life… is it possible?
Good Sleep Doesn’t Always Come Naturally
Babies arrive on this earth after nine comfy months of being snuggled, rocked for hours on end and hearing the sweet sounds of mama. It’s heaven.
Then they leave their first home and suddenly don’t know where mama went when they wake from a nap (spoiler: she’s just taking a shower!). For your little babe, it’s terrifying.
Because babies don’t yet know what is going on when they open their eyes and see a different place from where they fell asleep.
We wake and fall back asleep many times throughout the night, even if we don’t know it. But imagine you dozed off in your bed and woke up in your backyard.
You would be in a full blown panic, to say the least.
This is what babies experience when they fall asleep in your arms but wake up in their crib.
And while some might outgrow this, more times than not your child won’t¹. Fights at bedtime, sneaking into mom and dad’s bed and other poor sleep behaviors all come from how bedtime is handled as babies.
Sleep training is teaching your baby how to put themselves back down to sleep when they wake up throughout the night. This is a learned behavior for most and there is no set way that works for every single baby².
Sleep Training Is Safe
The number one concern for parents considering a sleep training method is whether or not this causes long term damage.
And it’s a completely valid concern. Your baby is learning to trust you and that only happens by meeting their needs when they are crying.
So when is letting your baby cry a good thing?
Babies are ready for sleep training between four and six months. Any earlier and your baby will only be stressed out because they are too young to understand what’s happening.
If you’re meeting your child’s needs all day and only following the sleep training method at night, your child will be more than ok.
Pick a Method and Be Consistent (Most of the Time)
There are many resources that guide parents on how to sleep train a baby.
Many involve some variation of the cry it out method. This means letting your baby cry for increments of time before going in to comfort them, verbally or with light touches but not by picking them up. If this sounds too severe, there are pick up put down sleep training approaches.
The time between going in your baby’s room lengthens after each check in.
After a few nights your baby will begin to, for the most part, sleep the majority of the night on their own. After a few weeks, you can expect them to be pros.
Keep in mind the following when rolling out the method of your choice:
Do your best to stay consistent. If you mix methods or improvise, you will confuse your baby. The confusion teaches them to cry longer to get your attention because they know that it works.
At the same time, you know your child best. If you think that something is not right, it’s ok to break protocol once or twice.
Maybe you know your baby didn’t eat as much that day or you smell a dirty diaper. Just remember taking one step back is to ultimately move forward. So be sure to reroute only when absolutely necessary.
The Right Gear Helps
The best gifts for tired parents are things to help a baby sleep. And there are definitely a few items that will help.
A quality sound machine resembles the womb and muffles noises that could wake your baby. Great for all homes but especially if you have older children.
Blackout curtains are also a must. When babies spend time in dark rooms, they actually produce more melatonin, which helps them sleep longer³.
Lastly, a baby sleep sack is not just for keeping the baby warm at night. The best sleep sacks will keep your babe cozy and prevent them from waking up by way of moro reflexes.
Look at the Big Picture
Sleep is such a vital part of baby brain development. So much happens over time while they are snoozing away.
A good night’s rest doesn't just change your child’s mood for the day, it sets another brick down on the house that is your child’s wellness.
And so many good things come from helping your child develop healthy sleep habits.
When your baby is a good sleeper you will know your attention is really needed if they cry during the night. Maybe they have a dirty diaper or are sick.
So as you are researching best sleep training methods for your baby, remember the end goal.
Good sleep is good health.