If you are a tired mom and still up doing night feedings and craving some sleep, maybe you are asking yourself if baby sleep training is right for you. Here are some thoughts that will hopefully help. Books are affiliate links.
The term “sleep training” is fairly controversial these days, so let me start by saying I’m not writing this to rock boats, get comments, or ruffle feathers. I’m writing because – dadgummit – moms are exhausted. Babies are cute bundles of joy that require a lot of work, attention, time, and sacrifice. They are worth it, but they are a lot of work.
Many moms sleep train from Day One. It’s a priority in their home, and they set out to establish good sleeping patterns from the get go. They are happy with their choice, confident in their steps, and don’t second guess themselves.
Other moms consciously do not sleep train their babies, but choose to take a more laid back and responsive approach to their baby’s needs and cues. They are happy with their choice, confident in their steps, and don’t second guess themselves.
And then there are the other moms.
The moms who aren’t quite sure where they stand. They don’t really know if sleep training is right for them and, in fact, they aren’t sure what sleep training really means. They just hear people being for or against “crying it out.” Their babies are exhausted. They are exhausted. And they need some hope!
What sleep training is
For those moms who aren’t quite sure what baby sleep training is, I’d like to share a few key points. There are a million ways to skin a cat it’s no different with establishing healthy sleep patterns, but there are a few key elements to keep in mind that most sleep training strategies agree upon.
- Establishing good daytime habits that contribute to nighttime sleep
- Keeping a steady routine (which is different for everyone) that signals “time to sleep”
- Creating feeding and eating habits that allow for extended sleep
- Helping your baby learn to sleep, and get back to sleep, on their own
What sleep training isn’t
Now let’s talk about what it isn’t. Sleep training can get a bad rap because the term has a negative connotation. I’d like to debunk some of that for a bit.
- Forcing your baby to sleep when they don’t need it
- Regularly letting them scream themselves to sleep as a strategy
- Depriving your baby of nourishment
So… is it selfish?
Well, maybe. Or maybe not. Establishing healthy sleep patterns for babies (and every other member of the family) is beneficial for the individual and the family. So maybe it’s selfish to want your baby to sleep well. But sometimes selfishness is necessary for our own survival.
The more children you have the more you realize you can’t always put everyone else’s habits above your own needs.
If you are doing something against the best interest of your baby for your own pleasure, that’s selfish. If your baby is too young to truly sleep through the night or has medical issues that prevent it from establishing healthy patterns and you force the issue, that is selfish. If you know your baby is capable of sleeping through the night but you just need some pointers and good habits, that’s not selfish.
How’s it any different?
It’s the middle of the night and the parents are asleep as well as the other kids in the home. The baby awakes for yet another feed. The mom is pretty convinced the baby doesn’t still need to be feeding every 2 hours throughout the night at 8 months, but isn’t quite sure how else to keep the baby from waking everyone else in the house. So she feeds the baby back to sleep and climbs back in bed knackered and frustrated.
That is – if you’ll accept it – actually a form of sleep training. The mom is training the baby to go back to sleep through the night only with a feed. Now, does this mean the mom needs to let the baby scream all night? Of course not! But can other habits and practices be put into effect that can stop this from becoming a nightly ritual? Absolutely!
And really, sleep training won’t last more than a few days (week tops) if your baby is ready.
Habits like the above can last for years…
1. Get started on the right path
It’s never too late to start figuring out how to get your little one to sleep better. No matter what type of habits are happening now, you can begin to make some positive changes that will benefit everyone. First steps include pinpointing exactly why your baby is waking up during the night, and trying to minimize that.
So, for example, if you feel they are genuinely hungry, the goal is to feed them enough throughout the day that they are not genuinely hungry at night. So if they need (completely untrue but easy for illustration) 10 cups of milk a day, don’t give them 5 during the day and 5 at night. Start increasing the amount they drink and eat during the day so they are not starving at night.
2. Focus on the daytime
Surprisingly, much sleep training actually happens during the daytime. For babies there are opportunities during the day (before naps, for example) to prepare them to sleep well at night. Giving them good opportunities to exercise, but not be overstimulated. Not allowing them to get overtired is a huge factor in sleep training.
By ensuring they have a good nap they will be better set up for sleeping through the night. For naps, putting them in their cribs awake and drowsy helps them learn to fall asleep on their own without intervention. All of this will contribute to them being able to slightly rouse at night, then roll over and go back to sleep on their own.
3. Understand the importance of timing
A huge – HUGE – part of getting your baby to sleep well throughout the day and night is timing. It means hitting the “window.” It means not letting them get too overtired or overstimulated until it’s basically impossible for them to sleep well. You know you feel when you are exhausted beyond exhaustion? It’s even more difficult to go to sleep and when you do, you toss and turn.
It’s a misconception that keeping babies up longer to “wear them out” will result in better sleeping. Preschoolers? Yes, probably. Babies and early toddlers? No. When the babies starts rubbing their eyes, acting fussy, or has been up a set amount of hours, they are tired. If you move past the window, they’ll get a second wind.
4. Determine your stance on “crying it out”
I’ll not get into this issue here because each family may have different views and opinions on the matter. Either way, you can flat sure sleep train without crying it out if you want to. So, if you aren’t comfortable with a lot of crying from your baby that does NOT mean your baby will never sleep well.
Here are some very popular books that will cover the gamut from crying it out to no crying at all.
5. Be consistent
First and foremost (even though I’ve put it last) you must be consistent. Babies will follow your cues – even if you think you’re following their cues – and will begin to entrench themselves in the habits you set. So, consistent night feedings long past when it’s necessary will become habit. And it will require consistency and steadiness to create new habits.
When you determine your first steps and the new habits you want to create, stick with them. It may take a bit before you see changes, but the changes will come. Your baby wants to get more consistent and healthy sleep! So do you!
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- Be amazed how well your baby and you begin to sleep.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! There are truly only a few reasons why babies and toddlers have struggles sleeping… really, I mean it. I am going to teach you the main 3 reasons and how to start making small changes to help your baby go from:
- fighting sleep to embracing it
- night wakings to sleeping through
- needing you to jump through hoops to going to sleep on their own
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