Having a child or children is a big blessing. However, It can also cause increased stress, mood swings, irritability, poor sex life, sleep deprivation, and weight gain or loss. These feelings usually resolve by creating a consistent daily routine and sleep training. A key component in sleep training is teaching your baby to self soothe. What is self-soothing you may ask? This is when a baby can soothe him/herself to sleep independently. During the transition from one sleep cycle to the next.
As adults when we complete a sleep cycle and shift to the next cycle. We may wake up briefly or come close to waking up but we almost immediately fall back to sleep. Babies will often wake up at the end of each sleep cycle and will often need help going back to sleep. When a child is able to self soothe and transition through each cycle independently. Sleep training has been learned.
BENEFITS OF SLEEP TRAINING
- Sleep trained babies have a better temperament, less cranky, more relaxed and better mood
- Sleeping is essential in facilitating infant’s brains to mature and help with memory consolidation.
- Little sleep deficits, in the long run, may have long term effects in overall brain function
- Infant sleep problems may correlate with maternal depression. Studies have shown that when there is an improvement in an infant’s sleep pattern. There is an improvement in the mother’s mental health.
With my oldest, we did not start sleep training until he was 6 months old. At this point, we transitioned from our room to his room. While with my youngest, he transitioned to his crib at 4 months old. An ideal age to start sleep training will be anytime after 4 months of age. At this age, most babies are ready to sleep through the night. Can then be weaned off night-time feeds. PS: this is only applicable to term infants without any medical complications at birth.
Prior to starting sleep training, I discussed with our pediatrician about his weight and asked if this was an ideal time to wean him off from nighttime feeds. It is also important to recognize your baby’s nonverbal cues. The recognition of non-verbal cues indicates your ability to interpret and communicate nonverbally with your child. Some examples of some non-verbal sleep cues are yawns, rubbing of eyes, fussiness, trying to get away/pushing away from you. Another indication of sleep training readiness is if your child is sleeping for 3-4 hours at a stretch.
- We started by creating a consistent nighttime routine and sticking to it. At 6 pm every day, he gets a bath, followed by a massage while moisturizing his skin. Then he gets a warm bottle of milk, followed by 30 min of cuddle/playtime, then its bedtime.
- Some form of white noise is a must, my favorite is the hatch baby. You can connect it to your phone via Bluetooth. It also has the capability to allow the user to set up sleep and wake time. Our sleep time and wake time is 7 am-7 pm each day.
- Don’t mute your household in other for your baby to sleep. Babies should be able to sleep through some noise. I am not saying have a party in your house and expect your child to sleep through it. The house should still able to continue to function while your child sleeps.
- A humidifier is a great investment. Congestion and dry air are uncomfortable for babies
- While it is ok to rock your baby to sleep. It is very important to lay them down while drowsy but yet awake. When babies move from one cycle of sleep to the next this tends to wake them up. The ability to Lay in bed while drowsy but not asleep will help teach babies how to transition or self-soothe through each sleep cycle.
- Reflux is common in most infants. If your child is struggling with this, elevate the head of the mattress by placing a pad under it. This will help prevent food from coming up back into the esophagus.
- Blackout drapes aid in regulating babies’ circadian rhythm. Sometimes babies have their days and night mixed up. During the day open your curtains or blinds and let in the light. While at bedtime Blackout drapes create a dark and cozy space.
- To cry it out or not. Yes, your child may fuss and cry at been placed in a big crib alone. This is an expected reaction. Try to reassure by talking or patting he/she on the back till they are drowsy, but not asleep
A well-rested baby helps create a happy atmosphere in the home-consistency is key. I usually start sleep training on a Friday and by Sunday both boys were sleeping through the night. If crying occurs during sleep training. It is usually for less than 5 minutes. It may seem longer because we love them so much and don’t want them to be upset. Lastly, sleep is an acquired skill, and most babies who struggle with sleep become toddlers who struggle with sleep. Do what is best for you and your family and modify this to suit your family’s needs.