4 months old
Sleep Training – The Basics
- An important part of establishing healthy sleep habits is helping your baby learn to fall asleep on his or her own after waking in the middle of the night – otherwise you’ll spend years trying to do it for her. Getting comfy and falling asleep is a learned skill for most babies, and something they will take with them through life.
- Some babies naturally learn to self-soothe, while others need some coaching. There are a number of different learning approaches – all of which will work if used consistently – so it’s just a matter of finding a method you’re comfortable with.
- If you’re anxious to start sleep training, now is generally a safe time to start – that is, as long as your baby is physically thriving, doesn’t have an illness and isn’t teething.
- If you delivered prematurely, ask your pediatrician if your baby is nutritionally ready to skip nighttime feedings.
Are you ready to sleep train?
Just because your baby is four months old doesn’t mean you have to adhere to any sleep training techniques. If you’re happy with the way your baby is sleeping – even if that means getting up multiple times in the middle of the night – then that’s fantastic; keep doing what you’re doing. Many families co-sleep well into the preschool years (and beyond) because they find it to be comforting, nurturing and natural. That approach inherently doesn’t allow for any rigid sleep training. Every child eventually learns how to sleep, but some experts believe the longer your baby is soothed to sleep, the harder it will be to break the habit.
Before you start researching sleep-training methods, there are certain measures you should take regardless of your philosophy:
- Make sure your baby is on some kind of a schedule throughout the day, with fairly predictable nap times.
- Put your baby to sleep after two to three hours of wake time to prevent overtiredness. If a baby is too exhausted, he or she will become frantic and have a much harder time falling asleep.
- Feed your baby more during the day to make sure that all of his or her calorie requirements are met. Not only will it fill up your baby’s tummy, but it will also teach that eating is for the day, not the night.
- Stick to your consistent bedtime routine.
- Learn to wait out the whimpers. Jumping up every time your baby makes a sound will cause him or her to always rely on you to fall back to sleep. Your baby might surprise you and fall asleep before the real crying starts, making sleep training unnecessary.
- Explore different options, even outside of what your expert-of-choice preaches. Some babies will scream their heads off as soon as mommy leaves the room, but will peacefully put themselves to sleep – without patting or rocking – in your presence. On the other hand, some babies subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy, continuing to fight sleep as long as you’re in eyeshot. No approach is one-size-fits-all; use the books and articles as general guides rather than law.
- It’s nice to have guidance from sleep experts, but at the end of the day you should follow your own intuition on what works best for your particular baby, and what he or she needs at the moment. Most parents would agree that consistency and patience are instrumental in creating a healthy sleep environment, regardless of your approach.