What Age Should I Start Sleep Training?
This is a common question that arises with parents of young babies. Although some sleep consultants will tell you otherwise, I do not recommend sleep training until a child is 6 months old and is developmentally ready to start sleeping through the night and has started solid foods. Always check with your health care provider to make sure your child is ready to start sleep training and has reached all their weight and height milestones.
With that being said, there are things that you can do now to start shaping your baby’s sleep and to encourage her to self-settle.
Have a consistent bedtime routine in place so your baby can learn the cues for night-time sleep. Keep it short (30 minutes max) and easy enough that anyone putting her to sleep can do it. Some things you can include in your routine are a bath, milk, pajamas, massage, story, song and snuggle. By no means do you have to include all of these, but choose a few that work for you and that seem to calm your baby. The key is to be consistent.
At bedtime and for naps, try putting your baby down drowsy, but awake. This may not be successful every time, but the more she can learn to fall asleep on her own, and in her own bed, the more apt she is to be able to do this consistently as she gets older. Try patting and shushing her for comfort, but if she really protests, pick her up and hold her. You want to avoid getting her to the point where she is very upset, which will make it harder to get her down and cause more upset for both of you. Do keep trying though, she may surprise you and start putting herself to sleep more and more often.
Keep Night-Time Boring
When responding to your baby’s night wakings, keep interaction minimal and keep the lights low. Try to feed her and put her back down right away so she begins to learn that night is for sleep and daytime is for socializing- imagine you are trying to bore her back to sleep. Also, babies make a lot of noise in their sleep, including crying, so make sure that you are responding to her when she is truly awake. There is nothing worse than realizing that you just woke your sleeping baby-gah!
Use All Your Comfort Tools
Have multiple comfort tools that you can use to soothe your baby. Switching things up often will keep your baby from becoming reliant on a particular form of comfort and reduce the chances of it becoming a sleep crutch later on. Some options you can try are; rocking, patting, shushing, dancing, feeding, rocking, babywearing and singing. Your baby will be amazed at how many tricks you have!
Enjoy Your Baby
Most importantly, this is such a wonderful time of growth and connection for your little person. Snuggle, comfort and love your baby, because it really is such a special time and to be cliché- it goes by so fast!