The Top 5 Tips Every Parent Needs to Know About Sleep Training
Before you begin sleep training your child, it’s important to have a clear plan in mind. Otherwise, things could go from bad to worse pretty quickly! When parents first hear about sleep training methods, many of them are understandably concerned about the potential implications for their child. The truth is that most kids will resist going to bed and staying there for some time after they begin solid foods. However, there are ways to make things easier on everyone.
If you’re thinking about using sleep training as a means of getting your little one back on track with their sleeping habits, read on for our top five tips regarding this process.
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Establish a bedtime routine
The very first thing parents should do before sleep training is to establish a bedtime routine. Parents could start with a bath followed by a story read by themselves or with their child. This is the time to turn off the TV and put away the phone so that the child can concentrate on falling asleep. Make it a practice to say goodnight to your child at the same time every night. If your child wakes up at night, you can help them fall back to sleep using the same steps. The more consistent and predictable the bedtime routine is, the easier your child will be able to fall asleep on their own.
Set clear expectations
When you begin sleep training, your child needs to clearly understand what is expected of them. While you may have kept your child in your room until they were old enough for you to feel comfortable moving them to their own room, you need to gradually increase the amount of time that your child stays in their room until they are solely spending their nights there. Additionally, you need to maintain a consistent environment in your child’s room. It should be dark, quiet and free from distractions. Be sure to turn off the lights and keep any toys that are in the room out of reach. Your child should not be able to grab anything or get into anything while they are in their bed. If you can see your child playing with something or hear them talking, then the room is too stimulating.
Start with the easiest method first
If your child is still really young, then you may want to try using a transitional object, often referred to as a “lovey.” A transitional object is an item that your child has grown very attached to that they can use to comfort themselves when they fall asleep. This could be a blanket, a stuffed animal or a small toy, among other things. If your child falls asleep with their transitional object, you can use it to get them to sleep without having to do anything else. However, if your child is old enough to understand that they’ll have to part with the object when they wake up, then you could try a more traditional method such as the “pick-up, put-down” approach. This involves you picking up your child every time they fall asleep, bringing them to their bed and putting them down. The next step is for you to stay in the room for a shorter period of time. Let your child cry a bit, and then go to the child’s room to reassure them that everything is okay. Stay with them long enough to get them to calm down, and then leave the room again. Your goal is to slowly extend the amount of time between each visit, gradually lengthening the time your child spends in their bed each night.
Be ready for a few nights of struggle
As with any new habit, sleep training is likely to cause some growing pains at first. While most babies will begin sleeping through the night within a few days, some may take a bit longer. If your child is still struggling a few nights after you begin sleep training, don’t get discouraged. Stay consistent and keep at it, and your child will eventually get used to the new routine. In fact, you may even find that your child sleeps better than they did before sleep training because they will not be waking themselves up anymore. You may also want to talk to your doctor if your child is not improving or you notice a sudden change in their behaviour.
A word of caution about cry-it-out methods
While cry-it-out methods are extremely effective, they are also controversial, especially with people who are unsure about the necessity of sleep training in the first place. There are a few things you should keep in mind with these methods. First, you need to wait until your child is at least six weeks old before even attempting cry-it-out methods. This is because your child is too young to have consistent sleep patterns until this point. Secondly, you should not attempt these methods until you feel ready for them. It can be a very stressful experience for parent and child alike, so you need to be emotionally prepared. It may take longer than you expect, so don’t be surprised if your child continues to cry for a few nights in a row.
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As you can see, sleep training can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow these five tips, it should be easier to get your little one on track with their sleeping habits. If you are still unsure about sleep training, you should talk to your doctor. They can help you decide if sleep training is right for your family and, if so, they can offer a few tips on how to go about it. With a bit of preparation, you can help your child get the sleep they need. You can then use that extra time to relax or do something you enjoy.