Sleep Schedules and Training
Before You Start Sleep Training
Before you start sleep training:
- Wait until your baby is out of the newborn phase (therefore physically capable of sleeping through the night).
- Make sure your baby doesn’t have any health or development issues, like a cold or teething.
- Also avoid times when your baby is hitting developmental milestones, like rolling over or crawling, because these are known to cause sleep disruption as it is. (They’re just so excited to keep practicing!)
- Any major life change – like a new day care or a big move – can make it difficult to sleep train as well.
- If you delivered prematurely, get the green light from your pediatrician. It might take longer for your baby to be nutritionally ready to skip the nighttime feedings.
- Make sure your baby has a somewhat predictable schedule throughout the day so that you know when your baby is most likely tired.
- Always put your baby to sleep after two to three hours of wake time in order to prevent overtiredness. If your baby is overtired, he or she will become frantic and have a hard time falling asleep.
- To eliminate nighttime feedings, make sure you fill up your baby’s tummy more during the day to ensure that his or her calorie requirements are met. You want to teach that daytime is for eating and nighttime is for sleeping.
- Before you start sleep training, see if your baby will go back to sleep on his or her own. Jumping up at the first whimper will make your baby think you’ll always come rushing in. Your baby might shock you and actually fall back to sleep.
- Understand that, while there are dozens of sleep training options, you might have to create your own modification based on your individual baby. For instance, some babies cry as soon as mommy leaves the room, but will peacefully put themselves to sleep as long as mom is within eyeshot. On the other hand, some babies will fall asleep easier if mom isn’t in the room.
At the end of the day, use these sleep experts for guidance, but follow your own instincts. As long as you have consistency and patience, whatever method you choose will eventually work.
What Is Sleep Training?
The topic of sleep training can certainly trigger a parenting philosophy war, as there is a deep emotional response associated with it. However, we can’t have a discussion about baby schedules without discussing one of the biggest tools used to achieve it.
There are probably hundreds of different takes on the sleep training topic (just walk into your local bookstore), but there are really only two schools of thought: Cry It Out and No Tears. What’s the difference?
- Parent-led supporters would follow the Cry It Out method, as it’s a much quicker learning process for babies, yet requires more emotional endurance from the parents.
- There are varying degrees and approaches for “crying it out,” which might be best for those following a combination schedule.
- Those who believe in a baby-led, attachment parenting lifestyle will prefer a No Tears approach, although it will usually take a lot longer to accomplish.
- There are some experts, like Penelope Leach, who claim that allowing a baby to “cry it out” during sleep training can raise stress hormones so drastically that it causes mental damage.
- Yet the science behind these seriously disturbing claims is based more on chronic neglect, abuse and trauma rather than a week of isolated sleep training amidst otherwise responsive, nurturing parenting. (And let’s be clear: Crying It Out doesn’t actually mean your baby is left to cry him or herself to sleep. More on that to follow.)