Parenting is known for the sleepless nights that come from the constant immediate cries of needed attention from a child who has come awake earlier than we have planned or prepared. Our family and friends have noticed that we wear the badges of parenting in our droopy, bloodshot eyes and dragging walk as we trudge through the day accomplishing the small tasks we still have an ounce of strength to do. Is there hope? Is there a way for the endless nights and tiresome day to get better?
The good news is that life doesn't always need to be that way, or at least, not always. With some effort and consistency, you can help you and your child's sleep patterns. There is a way to train your child to sleep easier and better so that both you and your child can have a well balanced and healthy sleep schedule. That's what we will cover in this article.
There are ways to train your child to sleep better.
It may sound funny to talk about sleep as some type of skill that we learn since as adults, sleeping comes pretty naturally. But you have had years of experience and adapt, your child has not. They need to learn when to sleep and how to sleep by themselves, otherwise, they will always need your assistance to get them to soothe them and get them to sleep.
Sleep training is important.
What age can I start sleep training my baby?
1st 6 Week is a Big No
Your child is not in any position to learn, which means you honestly can't train at all. He/she is still getting used to their body and the world around them, and after birth needs as much sleep as they possibly can. During the bodily traumatic experience of birth, your child is still healing, so allow this to be a time of nurturing and as much sleep as both of you can get! This is not a time to develop a schedule and equally don't plan on waking them during this time. It will soon be over! I promise.
A child can start sleep training as young as seven weeks old
Start after 6 Week Mark
Once your child passes the six-week mark, the initial stages of training can begin. During this time you can start to teach your child routines and schedules and implement bedtimes and nap times. The most important thing during this stage is to try to be as consistent with your schedule as possible. By your own consistency, your child will begin to learn and understand some of the general rules of how and when to sleep properly.
Various methods of sleep training
Just as there are many different methods of parenting, there are various methods of sleep training. Each of these methods gives parents the ability to support their child in learning how to put themselves down. Please understand that no one method is right or wrong essentially, find the one that works for you and your child and adapt it to your schedule. Also, many parents have adapted these methods, or use a mixture of two methods to suit their personality and their parenting approach.
Cry it out is a method many parents choose in sleep training
1. Cry it out
Some parents cringe at the verbalization of this method, and others nod their head in agreement knowing that it has worked for them or parents they know in the past. To some it is controversial and to others normal and healthy. Again, I want to state that none of these methods are wrong, it's just the fact that some work better with your personality and parenting style than others.
Cry it out is training the child how to soothe themselves
One of the most known methods of sleep training is called the "Cry it out" method. This method was developed by renown pediatrician Richard Ferber way back in 1985.
The idea is that your child can learn this skill on their own and just needs to be given the opportunity to develop the methods of sleep themselves.
"Cry it out" is called this because when your child wakes up, they will generally cry out for their parents to come and soothe them. This is a natural reaction to waking in the middle of the night. It is important to note at this point that crying does not hurt or harm your baby, and MAKING them cry is not the goal. It is simply understood that this is a natural reaction to young children.
As long as your child is not in danger, or hurt, in this method, you can allow them to cry themselves to sleep as they learn to soothe themselves.
In order to try "cry it out", you put the child in the crib during your scheduled nap or sleep time while they are still awake. This is important because you are training them to soothe themselves.
Tell them goodnight and leave the room. They may cry for a little while during this process. If you think they need some help, you can re-enter the room and pat them and use a soothing voice, but it is important to not pick them back up if this is the method you want to use.
Continue to increase the amount of time you wait to re-enter the room to help soothe your child until they fall asleep. Do the same thing if they wake up in the middle of the night.
For many parents, this is difficult to handle as our natural tendency is to soothe our children when they are upset. However, there have been many parents who have testified to the success of this method in their own lives.
2. Camping out with your baby
Camping out is a method in between crying it out and no tears
"Camping out" is known by several different names but they all refer to the same approach that is somewhere in between cry it out and "no tears". In "camping out", parents generally stay in the room and gradually train their child how to soothe themselves as a coach. Many times this means not picking up the child, but simply staying in the room while the child learns to put themselves to sleep.
After a few nights begin to sit a little further away from the crib, eventually standing at the door. According to most experts who adhere to this method, you would be able to say goodnight and leave the room within two to three weeks and your baby can put themselves down.
No tears is taking nighttime or naptime as an opportunity to bond with your child.
Sleep training with no tears
"No tears" is exactly how it sounds. The goal is to not have your child cry at all during night time and instead stay with them until they are fast asleep. Most experts who support the "no tears" method suggest that bedtime and naptime are an opportunity for parents to truly develop a nurturing connection with their child while soothing them to sleep.
If you desire to use this method it should be noted that you start bedtime a bit earlier than the other methods, since this method does have the potential to take a bit longer than others.
Also, continue to adhere to a sleep schedule that you set for you and your child.
How to sleep train toddlers
It is not too late to train your toddler
"What if I waited too long? My child is older now, can I still sleep train them?"
The good news is that sleep training can happen no matter how old the child is. In fact, many babies have the potential to revert away from their sleep training around the time that they are toddlers and need some coaching to retrain them to sleep. Any parent that has had a toddler delay incessantly about doing nighttime routines, or constantly ended up at the parent's bed in the middle of the night may see the need for toddler sleep training.
As your toddler can understand the world a bit more than a baby, training them by reading books about bedtime, role-playing bedtime with dolls or toys or even playing "bed-time" with their parent is healthy for them to understand the expectations and schedule for sleeping.
Also, many parents believe that teaching your child breathing methods that help them to soothe themselves and put themselves to sleep is a sure way to help your toddler to learn to sleep.
Essentially you can use the same methods you used for a baby with your toddler as they all work the same way with a child who is a bit older.
You can train your child to sleep
What method you choose it totally up to you as the parent. Know your personality and know your child to figure out what you think will work for your family. However, the main goal is to stick with it. Don't swap out one method for the other after only a few days. All of these methods take some time and patience and probably a few restless nights for you as you help your child learn the healthy habits of sleep.