Whether you’re for or against sleep training, we can all agree on one thing: a baby who gets a good night’s sleep is a happier baby! If your little one is waking up and crying several times a night or has trouble drifting off to sleep come bedtime, there’s no harm in researching the possible methods to help them get a restful sleep. Your health visitor may have a strong opinion about how you should be handling things while you might prefer to go in the opposite direction. So, here’s a brief look at some of the sleep training methods out there to help you make up your mind on how you’d like
This method means that when your baby drifts off to sleep, they learn to do this on their own. So, no rocking, shushing or use of a dummy. The ability for your child to self-settle is thought to be a good tool for when they wake up in the night as they are able to get back to sleep without help but is not a practice favoured by all parents or experts. The trend for self-soothing harks back to the late 19th century with the Cry It Out (CIO) guidance from Dr Emmett Holt.
This requires parents to gradually diminish their role at bedtime by sitting near the baby as they fall to sleep and then gradually moving the chair further and further away from the cot each night. Another approach is to reassure the baby every five minutes – again, without picking them up – until they settle and fall asleep. A third example of fading is to push back bedtime by 15 minutes if the child struggled to settle the night before. Here, you play a sleep coach as they learn to fall asleep on their own.
This method is a much more gradual process that involves parents soothing the baby to sleep and offering comfort right away when crying occurs. This means a much more active role in getting your child to sleep, essentially becoming their comfort when they get upset in the night.
A consistent piece of advice from many sleep experts is the importance of introducing routine when possible. Waking up around the same time every morning, having feeds at regular times and having a bedtime of between 7 and 8pm to avoid over-tiredness. You can also introduce a bedtime routine including a bath, reading a book or singing a song to them – being consistent, where possible, can only help your efforts.
And, of course, a bed is also part of the journey. Moving from a cot to a single kids bed is a big step for all children and a part of the journey to a good night’s sleep. Their first night in their ‘big bed’ will be so exciting and a real marker for them getting older. Why not involve them in the decision of what bed to get?
The sleep training debate is one that divides opinion among parents and experts with success cases across all methods. Only you can decide the best method for you and your baby based on research, trying new approaches and, if needed, seeking the advice of your health visitor. Where do you stand on sleep training?