When it comes to sleep behavior, having to train your baby doesn’t usually come to mind. But for little ones who are just learning their new world, teaching them how to sleep independently builds life-long habits that both baby and parent will enjoy.
Just like learning to ride a bicycle, sleep training your baby takes time, patience and perseverance.
To clarify, sleep training is not the same as the “cry it out” method, which some studies have found does more harm than good. The goal of training your young one is to help them sleep without depending on you to hold them all night long.
It may sound heart wrenching (or daunting) to cut down on cuddle time; but studies have shown that kids sleep better in their own rooms than when they co-share your bedroom or even your bed. The best time to introduce sleep training is during any of your baby’s sleep regressions.
But look up hundreds of sleep training infographics on Pinterest and then try to follow through and you’ll quickly learn how much easier said than done sleep training can be.
While each parent has their own unique style that suits to their own child’s needs, at least knowing what you’re doing wrong is easier to adjust than learning what you’re “supposed” to do.
To make sleep training easier for you and your baby, we’ve identified the five common ways most parents ruin their own efforts that you’re probably doing as well.
- You don’t notice when they’re tired and you wait too long.
Some kids will let you know when they’re ready, while some will never volunteer to go to bed. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not tired enough. Other than the obvious yawn and eye rub, other signs of tiredness can include grabbing ears, fussiness, slowed movement and even laying down.
Be sure to look out for these signs and hop on the opportune time to start putting your little down for the night, because waiting too long can actually cause a much less desirable opposite effect of over-stimulation.
- You don’t have a routine established.
While it may seem like a radical concept to create a routine with a bay who’s turned your entire world and own routine upside down, nonetheless it’s a vital practice to establish when it comes to bed time.
Give them a bath, lotion them up, dress them in pj’s, turn off lights in the house, read them a book and feed them a bottle. The more senses you involve, the more signals they’ll get that it’s bed time. Then, when you’re read to ween a routine away, it’ll be less noticed than if you only started with a few.
- You rock them for too long.
An image of a mother cradling her baby, rocking her to sleep and humming softly is the first image you think of when it comes to motherhood. But unfortunately, the reality is that after two hours, your arms get tired and you’re out of songs to hum. Worst of all? You could be doing more harm than good by rocking your sweet little one for that long.
It’s natural for your baby to want to be held and kept warm, and the more you continue to do so, the more they will come accustomed to being held. Calm them down long enough to fall asleep, but resist the temptation to gaze too long at their soft round face and lay them down sooner than later.
- You don’t give them a chance to fall asleep on their own.
Once you do lay them down in their own bed, there will be some resistance to being left alone, especially if they’re used to sleeping in your arms for hours. But just because they make a little noise or shift their cute little tush into the air doesn’t mean they’re awake.
This moment is the heart of sleep training. This is the moment when you can teach your little one how to self sooth and fall asleep on their own. So obviously, it’s an important moment.
If your baby is not completely asleep when you lay them down, simply rub their upper back rhythmically and whisper long shhhh sounds until they do fall asleep.
If they start crying and even sit back up, simply pick them up and try again until they’ve successfully fallen asleep, waiting an extra minute longer than the last attempt. Continue this process every night, laying them down more and more awake each time until eventually their eyes are wide open when they go to bed.
This process can certainly be tedious. But the more you stick with it, the easier it becomes. Just remember, it’s easier to establish new habits than break bad ones.
- You react too quickly when they cry.
This one goes along with not giving them the chance to fall asleep on their own.
When your baby wakes in the middle of the night and starts wailing, it’s instinct to jump up and take care of their needs. Or, at least, you think you’re taking care of their needs. But just like rocking them too long, you could be doing more harm than good.
A baby’s sleep cycle is approximately two hours, and they often make a noise or fuss after each cycle. But that doesn’t mean they’re waking up, and going in as soon as you hear their fuss could actually be waking them up.
Give them a few minutes and wait until their cry truly does need soothing before going in there.
Hopefully with just a few tweaks, you’ll be able to help your baby learn how to fall asleep on his or her own, giving everyone in your home some well-deserved rest. However, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation can be critical. If you’re finding that your little one is still not getting enough sleep at night, or you yourself are developing insomnia after countless nights of unrest, then be sure to reach out to your nearest sleep clinic for an evaluation.
Luckily, the sleep experts here at Alaska Sleep Clinic know all about sleep dilemmas, from insomnia to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you live in the Anchorage, Alaska area, then be sure to give our experts a call for a free 10-minute consultation.