The 3 Things You Need To Be Successful with Sleep Training
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Parents come to the decision to sleep train for all sorts of different reasons. I didn’t start for this reason but having sleep trained my children has really helped when it comes to working from home.
Some begin working on healthy sleep habits from day one.
Others, reach the decision to sleep train out of sheer desperation because the entire house is overcome by sleep deprivation.
Whatever your reason (and I say you because I assume you’re looking to sleep train) there are some things to consider.
Because sleep training isn’t always successful. It has to be done correctly in order for all the work to pay off.
To get a full understanding of what sleep training is, go ahead and check out this post –> A Simple Explanation of What Sleep Training Actually Is
However, to find out the 3 vital things that you need, as well as their associated tools, then keep reading.
#1 A Method
Sleep training is not limited to just one way of doing things. There are about 100 different options out there and then variants of each.
Which one you choose to follow and implement is completely up to your own discretion. However, choose one you must.
Sleep training will not be successful if you change what you’re doing every 5 minutes.
Related: Sleep Training with the 4 S’s
The Babywise method focuses on so much more than just teaching your child how to sleep. It uses the eat, play, sleep cycle to help establish a daily rhythm and teach independent sleep skills.
You’ll also find that Babywise has a big focus on your child being part of the family and not the centre of it.
While there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the method, it is actually very straightforward and completely safe when parents use common sense and logic.
You can find out more about it here –> What You Need to Know About Babywise
Moms on Call
When I was pregnant with my second child I heard about Moms on Call.
It’s a book written by two paediatric nurses and covers a multitude of different aspects of baby care during the first 0-6 months.
They have several more books that go on to cover care and advice for ages 6 months – 4 years.
While they offer lots of advice on everything from feeding to bathing your child, I especially liked the tips they give for teaching your baby to sleep.
They give you a step-by-step plan for every age as well as corresponding routines. It isn’t overly complicated and works really well when you’re trying to juggle the routines of more than one child. Find out more via the link below.
12 Hours by 12 Weeks
This is not a method that I have personally tried, but it is one that I’ve heard quite a bit about.
Essentially, it is aimed at teaching your baby to sleep through the night. A big part of that it stretching their feedings to 4 hours during the day.
I think this method can work well if you formula feed or have a bigger baby.
Personally, I haven’t followed it mostly because my babies are little and stay little for well, kinda forever. Ha!
Seriously though, I have small kids and they’ve never been ready for 4 hourly feeds until 5-6 months at the earliest.
You can find the book HERE.
Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child
If you’re curious about the science behind sleep and sleep patterns then this is a book that you’ll likely find interesting.
My firstborn was a chronic catnapper for the first 9 months of his life. Babywise gave different things to try in order to correct it but when none of them worked I found myself frustrated.
This book was really helpful when it came to understanding the ‘why’ behind 45-minute naps.
It also really focuses on the importance of establishing an early bedtime and how to prevent overtiredness in your child.
#2 The Right Mindset
Know your ‘why’
Sleep training should be intentional.
Knowing why you are sleep training will go a long way towards how successful the whole experience is.
If you don’t know why you’re really doing it then you’ll be much more likely to change the rules and game plan.
This often results in confusion for your baby and frustration for you as a parent.
So, before you begin, understand why it is that you have made this decision. That way, when things get challenging, you’re still firm in your determination to carry through.
Make a plan
Not all sleep training involves crying, but many of the methods do.
I’m not sure there are many parents that aren’t swayed by the cries of their child. It is natural to feel uncomfortable and somewhat distressed by it.
Because of this, it is easy to give in and stop the sleep training process, especially if you don’t have a clear plan put in place.
Here is a great post regarding CIO and some guides to go by –> 6 Rules for Using Cry It Out as a Baby Sleep Training Method
Figure out what you are comfortable with and map out your strategy. Make sure you also get your spouse on board with whatever you’re going to do.
It is difficult enough to sleep train your baby without being questioned along the way.
If you have a clear plan in place then when you’re in the moment and feeling stressed you’ll still be able to follow through without having to think too hard.
Discard the opinion of others
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
For real though. As a parent, you will quickly discover that every Tom, Dick, and Harry seems to have an opinion about the way you choose to do things.
Let me tell you, you are NEVER going to please everyone.
Do yourself (and your baby) a favour and ignore the unsolicited advice you will undoubtedly receive.
If you are content with the choice that you have made and know that it is the best thing for your baby, then there is no need to worry about what others think.
They are not raising your child.
#3 The Right Tools
Sleep training generally means teaching your child how to put themselves to sleep independently and without the aid of sleep props.
However, there are some tools that can come in really handy and make the process a little less difficult.
Below I’ve listed some of my favourite tools for sleep training. The first three wouldn’t be considered sleep props at all.
The last two I have listed specifically with newborns and younger babies in mind.
They aren’t things I would keep long-term, but while in that early stage, there is a delicate balance of teaching independent sleep skills while also avoiding a state of overtiredness.
Each to their own, but they’ve worked well for us!
Hands down purchasing a video monitor is one of the best baby buys we ever made.
It can be difficult to know the different cries of your baby when you’re a new mom. I found that having a way to check on my baby without disturbing him really helped all around.
If you do choose to let your baby cry then it can be really reassuring to know that they are fine and safe with the ability to check via the monitor.
Of course, they’re not a replacement for parental supervision, but video monitors really are very beneficial in my experience.
Some parents worry that white noise is a sleep prop and something that their child won’t be able to sleep without at a later date.
This isn’t true at all.
However, white noise is known to be very beneficial for several reasons.
Firstly, it is great at blocking out noises that might otherwise disturb your child. Secondly, it aids babies into reaching the stage of deeper sleep and helps them to connect sleep cycles.
This is the white noise machine that we use and LOVE.
I’ve seen some discussion regarding blackout blinds and whether or not they should actually be used. The argument is that they only make it more difficult for babies to sleep in places that aren’t pitch black.
Personally, I’ve never been able to make my kids room completely pitch black, but blackout blinds have helped darken them a significant amount.
I’m also not sure that babies can really be taught to be flexible sleepers. In my opinion, it comes down to personality more than anything else.
My first was always interested in what was going on around him, whereas my second would sleep amongst noise and chaos.
As with white noise, blackout blinds work well to signal to your baby that it is time for sleep. They are also really good at helping to get rid of early morning wake-ups as the light isn’t then waking your baby.
If your baby is under 12 weeks of age then I STRONGLY recommend swaddling them.
Many parents believe that their baby hates to be swaddled because they protest. However, if a swaddle is done properly then while a baby may protest for a minute or two, they will most likely settle right down and get nice and sleepy.
Best of all, swaddling your baby will help to make sleep stretches longer as they won’t be startled awake by their own reflexes.
Now, most if not all sleep consultants will agree that pacifiers are a sleep prop.
However, for young babies, I am a huge advocate of using them for several reasons.
Firstly, babies like to suck. It is normal and natural. However, it can be absolutely draining for a breastfeeding mom. Having the option of offering a paci for soothing purposing can give mom a break.
In the book Moms on Call, they recommend using a paci to help extend night feedings. It would be very rare for a baby to take a paci in place of a feed if they are truly hungry.
Secondly, using a pacifier is a practice that is recommended as a precaution against SIDS.
And thirdly, in those early days if you’re really not keen on letting your baby fuss at all, but still want them to sleep without being rocked, then the paci can be a lifesaver!
We used it with my daughter when teaching her to sleep as a newborn. I would allow her to fuss for a couple of minutes before going and giving her the paci. I did this in intervals until she would fall asleep.
Over time she needed the paci less and less and just stopped using it.
Sleep training is never easy for anyone, but it is definitely something worth undertaking if that’s what you feel is best for your family.