Babies, especially newborn babies, do not follow any sleep pattern. They sleep and wake up as and when they want. Most of the babies follow this irregular pattern up till 3 months of age and slowly develop a routine. But there are certain babies who might not develop a routine easily. They will find it difficult settling down to sleep or getting back to sleep once they wake up. This is when sleep training gains significance.
When is a baby ready for sleep training?
According to experts, a baby will be ready for sleep training once he/she is 4 to 6 months of age. By this time, night time feeds would have reduced and babies are capable of sleeping for 8-10 hours at a stretch. Moreover it is easy to change any sleep habits they have developed as the baby is still very young. But just like introducing new food to the baby, sleep training should also be done gradually. If you think the baby is cranky or moody once the training starts, you may discontinue the sleep training for sometime.
Methods of Sleep training
Cry it out Method: This method is based on the assumption that falling asleep on your own is a skill and babies can learn this skill provided they are given the opportunity. In this method, the baby is put to bed when he is still awake and he is allowed to fall asleep on his own. In case the baby cries, you can comfort him without picking him up. According to well known Pediatrician Richard Ferber, this method will let the baby soothe themselves. First, make the baby lie in the crib when he is awake and leave the room. If he cries, wait for 2-3 minutes and go back to the room and comfort him(without picking him up). Leave the room again and stay out for a little longer this time. Repeat this while increasing the duration of time you stay outside the room. Follow this routine till the baby falls asleep on his own.
No Tear Method: This method is exact opposite of cry it out method where the baby is put to bed in a more soothing and comfortable environment. Giving the baby a bath, singing a lullaby, reading a story are some of the activities that set ‘the right mood’ for sleep. Experts who advocate this method of sleep training emphasize on developing a physical closeness with the baby through co-sleeping, rocking and nursing the baby to sleep.
Whatever sleep training method you adopt make sure that you follow it consistently at least for 2 weeks so that the baby gets used to the new routine in his life. Trying to introduce a new habit to a baby can be an exhausting task for both parents. Hence try to introduce the new routine when you feel that you have more time to relax like during a weekend or at the beginning of a holiday. This way both baby and parents can easily glide over to the new stage in their life.