Alright, let’s talk sleep.
For parents, it seems like that elusive, magical thing that we just can’t get enough of, especially during those first few months with our new bundles of joy.
And while we adore our little ones, it’s no secret that we could all use some more shut-eye. I hear you on this because I feel like I haven’t slept through a night in years. After my son Charlie kind of could sleep through the night, I was then pregnant and uncomfortable, and then came my newborn. But that’s another story for another day.
So this is where sleep training comes in handy. It can really be a game-changer in helping your baby sleep through the night, allowing you to catch some much-needed Z’s yourself.
Let’s first address a common question that parents often ask:
At what age should I start sleep training my baby?
The answer to this question also isn’t one-size-fits-all, just like many other parenting hurdles we face, but generally speaking, it’s best to begin sleep training when your baby has reached around 4-6 months old.
By this age, most babies have started to develop a more regular sleep pattern and are physically capable of sleeping for longer stretches without needing to feed as frequently. However, it’s essential to remember that every baby is different and special in their own beautiful ways, and it’s crucial to pay attention to your little one’s unique needs and development.
Now, onto another pressing question:
Is sleep training safe for babies?
The answer is a big yes! As long as it’s done correctly and with a gentle approach. Sleep training is not about forcing your baby to sleep, but more like teaching them the skills they need to fall asleep independently and stay asleep throughout the night.
There are many sleep-training techniques to choose from, and it’s important to stick with the one that aligns best with your parenting style and your baby’s temperament.
In case you’re wondering what baby sleep trainers do, they’re essentially experts who guide parents through the process of sleep training. A sleep trainer or sleep consultant can provide personalised advice, support, and guidance to help you (zombie) through the tricky world of baby sleep-training.
They can help you develop a sleep plan tailored to your baby’s unique needs and provide ongoing support as you implement the plan.
Is sleep training worth it?
In a word, absolutely! Sleep training can provide so many benefits for both you and your baby.
For your little one, establishing healthy sleep habits early on can contribute to their overall development, mood, and well-being. For you, the tired parent, getting more restful nights means you’ll be better equipped to tackle the challenges of parenthood during the day. Plus, let’s be honest – a well-rested parent is a happier parent!
It’s important to note that sleep training does not mean letting your baby ‘cry it out’.
The first step to sleep training is getting a strong feeding and sleeping routine in place, following age-appropriate awake time windows (check out our Daily Rhythms in-app), learning to read your baby’s cues and finding a sleep training method that works best for you. Teaching your baby to self-settle is the most common approach. As Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue explains, “This is where you allow your baby to cry for a few minutes before going in to give comfort by ‘patting and shushing’ or rocking them gently where you find them in their cot. Once they are calm, you leave the room for another short period.”
“Once they start crying again, repeat the above steps so that they have a chance to resettle on their own, whilst always going in to reassure them again until they fall back asleep. It will take a few days of being consistent for you to see any results, but over time, your little one will develop the ability to self-settle.”
And if you’re feeling guilty for letting your bub cry, Chris says don’t beat yourself up about it. “You don’t need to feel like a neglectful parent if your little one cries for a few moments at a time. Babies do cry – that’s the way that they communicate! By using the above technique, you will always be there to go back in after a few minutes and to reassure them until they have developed the ability to do so on their own,” Chris reassures parents.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore some other things to consider when you’re thinking about sleep training.
1. Choose the right sleep training method
As I’ve already mentioned earlier, there are various sleep-training techniques available. Some popular ones include the Ferber method, the “cry it out” method, the “no-cry” method, and the “chair” method. Do your research, consider your baby’s age and temperament, and select a method that feels right for you , your family and your baby.
2. Develop a consistent bedtime routine
A bedtime routine can help signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep. This routine can include activities such as a warm bath, a soothing massage, reading a book, or singing a lullaby. Aim to make this routine consistent and calming, so your baby begins to associate it with sleep.
3. Use a sleep training clock
A sleep training clock can be a helpful tool to teach your baby when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. These clocks often use visual cues, such as changing colours or displaying different images, to signal the appropriate time for sleep and wakefulness.
4. Create a comfortable sleep environment
Ensuring your baby’s sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep is essential. Make sure the room is dark, quiet, and at a cool but comfortable temperature. You may also want to consider using white noise machines or blackout curtains to help create a more sleep-friendly environment.
5. Be patient and consistent
Just like all great things in this world, sleep training takes time. And it’s important to remember that progress may be slow at first. Stay consistent with your chosen sleep training method and bedtime routine, and try to be patient as your baby learns new sleep habits. Remember, setbacks are normal, and it’s essential to stay flexible and adapt as needed.
6. Encourage gentle sleep
When sleep training, always prioritise a gentle approach that takes into account your baby’s emotional and physical needs. Never ignore your baby’s cries for an extended period, and always provide comfort and reassurance when needed. Gentle sleep training methods can help your baby learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently while still maintaining a strong bond with you.
7. Communicate with your partner
Sleep training can be an emotional, stressful and challenging process for both parents. It’s important to communicate with your partner about your expectations, concerns, and progress throughout the process. Supporting each other can make sleep training more manageable and help you stay consistent with your chosen method.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re struggling with sleep training or feel unsure about which method is best for your baby, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. A sleep consultant can provide valuable guidance and support tailored to your baby’s unique needs.
Sleep training can truly make a difference for you and your baby. It’s about helping your little one develop healthy sleep habits that will help them get the best quality sleep they can, in order to grow and thrive. And of course, give you some much-needed rest as well.
Don’t try to copy what the parents next door are doing, keep in mind that it’s all about finding a method that fits your family’s values and your baby’s unique personality.
Remember, we’re all human, and getting the hang of sleep training might take some time. There will be ups and downs, but that’s totally normal. Just stay patient and consistent, and always make sure your baby feels loved and secure throughout the process.
And hey, if you ever feel overwhelmed or uncertain, there’s a whole community of sleep consultants and fellow parents who can offer guidance, support, and a listening ear.
So, here’s to more restful nights for you and your little one. Happy snoozing!
The tired parent’s guide: How to fix your baby’s sleeping habits
Past bedtime and your toddler still up? Well-kept secrets to sleep train a toddler
Newborn sleep guide: Everything you need to know about sleep in the first year