Written by Feba Maryann
The initial days of parenthood are marked by disrupted sleeping patterns and night-time feedings. But it has been three or four months since you started, and it is time to discuss sleep training.
Believe it or not, sleep training your baby is a critical step in ensuring that they develop healthy sleeping habits. At the same time, it enables the rest of the family to get their beauty sleep uninterrupted by a fussy baby.
There are innumerable texts available for new parents on how to teach their babies to go back to sleep. Some may seem contradictory while others might not be practical for you and your little one. An important point to remember during your research is that no single technique will be a foolproof way that will lull your baby to sleep.
With that being said, there are three major steps to be included in your plan to teach your baby to self-soothe back to sleep.
- Establish a Night-time Routine
Having a newborn around must have taught you that routines make your life easier. The same goes for your baby as well. Going through a bedtime routine will tell your baby’s body that it is time to fall asleep. Depending on the little one’s needs and development, you can start establishing a bedtime routine anytime between 2-3 and 6 months.
The routine can be simple like feeding followed by a warm bath or a lullaby and some cuddling. Around eight weeks into their lives, babies have an increase in their melatonin levels when it is time to sleep. Incorporating this change, make sure to carry out the night-time routine in dim light because melatonin production is a light-sensitive process.
- Rely on Self-Soothing
The urge to rush to your baby’s side when they are fussing in the middle of the night can be
uncontrollable. Try to hold yourself back from giving in to this urge if you are trying to teach them to fall asleep on their own. Wait for a few minutes and see if they settle on their own, they might only be lightly awake in between sleep cycles, before charging in.
If your child is truly distressed, go in but try not to do something disruptive like picking them up. Trying patting or shushing them to assure that you are around. Keep this up for five minutes or so to see if they calm down.
If they are still unsettled, pick them up and comfort them. Feeding them to get them to fall back asleep should only be done if the baby is hungry otherwise the child will need the bottle or the breast to fall asleep every time.
While you are finding a trick to make sure that the baby sleeps through the night through trial-and-error, maintaining some form of consistency will aid you. Most importantly, putting your baby down for a nap during the day at a fixed time can determine how they sleep the rest of the day. Overtired babies find it difficult to fall asleep since the stress hormones released by their bodies interrupt sleep.
Also, make sure that your baby sleeps in the same place most of the time. For instance, if the baby falls asleep in your arms and wakes in the middle of the night in their crib, they will feel distressed and become unsettled. To ensure that they are well-acquainted with the bedroom, put them down for naps in their crib instead of other spots.
Teaching your child to soothe themselves back to sleep is a subtle art. Forcing it on them may produce little to no results. If you fail to see the results of the training, give it a break, and try a few weeks or months later.
Some parents believe that allowing the child to cry themselves to sleep is the best way to train them. Do not feel pressured to try this if it takes a toll on your and your baby’s emotional health. Try getting a pacifier, soft toy, or a blanket for your child to go to sleep with but make sure that they pose no risks.
At the end of the day, cherish time with your baby because the days of sleepy snuggles will fly past before you know it.