The phrase ‘sleep training’ fills a lot of parents with dread. It conjures up images of screaming babies and stressed out parents. This might be the case for some people, but we would never advise leaving your baby to cry themselves to sleep. There are too many factors to consider: they could be crying because they are hungry, or in pain, or have a wet nappy. Crying is their only form of communication so it’s really important to understand their cries and know how to react to them.
First and foremost, you need to understand a bit of the science behind sleep. Newborn babies are born without knowing what is day and what is night. As they grow and develop, they start to produce and release sleep and stress hormones. Along with gentle guidance (like keeping the environment dark and quiet at night), they will start to sleep longer at night than they do during the day. This doesn’t happen until they are about 12 weeks old so be patient!
We don’t recommend any sleep training until 6 months old. This is because they simply aren’t developmentally ready to learn to settle themselves. With any type of sleep training, you need to be consistent. You won’t see changes overnight, but you should see slight improvements. If you stop with your new routine, and revert back to old ways, you will take a step back in the training and need to start again. We always say to our clients ‘it’s better to be awake at night and helping your baby than being awake at night and feeling helpless’.
Sleep training isn’t always about sitting outside your baby’s room with a stop watch; it’s about choosing the right method for you and your little one. It’s the most important step in sleep training and it’s something that we take a lot of time considering before we suggest a method to use.
Lastly, you need to be ready to sleep train your baby. It’s a huge milestone when your baby learns to sleep well and you do the bulk of the work, so be prepared to stay consistent and log your little one’s progress. You will see results if you stick to the plans so be safe in the knowledge that you will get there and things will improve.