What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training refers to methods implemented by parents to improve their child’s sleep habits. There are a wide range of sleep training methods, ranging from extinction cry-it-out (penned by Marc Weissbluth), graduated cry-it-out (Ferber), to gentle sleep training approaches.
When can I start sleep training?
Between 4 and 6 months of age, many babies respond very well to sleep shaping (sleep environment, consistent routines, etc.) and very gentle sleep training methods. If you feel you need to start a sleep training method before your baby is 6 months, make sure they are completely through the 4 month developmental milestone before starting. This usually happens between 4 and 5 months of age and lasts approximately 2 weeks.
It is generally recommended to wait until your child is 6 months of age before implementing any sleep training strategy. By 6 months, most babies can sustain themselves for up to 12 hours between feeds.
Why won’t my baby sleep?
There are many, many answers to this question and the answer differs for every baby.
One of the leading reasons babies won’t sleep is because they have developed sleep crutches over the first part of their lives. Sleep crutches refer to ways babies have learned to fall asleep using assistance instead of by developing their own skills. These may include feeding to sleep, being rocked to sleep, cosleeping, etc. Your baby has learned to fall asleep using a certain method. There is nothing wrong with using any of these methods until they no longer work for you and your child. When these methods no longer work and your child is losing sleep, it may be time to figure out which sleep training method would work best for you.
One of the other key reasons babies and small children won’t sleep is because a variety of sleep training approaches have been tried over a number of months (or years) to get them to sleep. When methods are used intermittently or inconsistently, this reinforces poor sleeping habits and contributes to your child holding out for you to give in.
Even if you have tried and failed at sleep training methods in the past does not mean that it will not work if you try again. Although it may take longer, by staying consistent with the approach you choose and by giving it time to work, you will achieve sleep success.
How will sleep training help my baby?
Incredible things are happening in your child’s brain as they sleep.
This is why uninterrupted sleep is so important for both you and your baby. You may notice:
- A happier, lighter mood in your baby
- Less fussiness and irritability
- More quality time with your baby due to improvement in your own mood and energy levels
How long does it typically take to see results?
This depends on many factors including your child’s age, temperament, developmental stage, and methods that have been tried in the past.
Most babies will be sleeping through the night within 2 weeks of starting your sleep training plan.
How can a professional help?
As a paediatric sleep consultant, I will complete a thorough history assessment of your child’s sleep patterns and habits. From this information, I create a plan that takes into account your family’s sleep goals and your child’s unique personality and temperament. I am available to offer knowledge and support throughout the entire sleep training process.
I have two goals for the families I work with:
- The entire family is sleeping by the end of our sleep plan
- I have imparted you with enough knowledge so you can handle any future bumps in the road that may occur as you move through different developmental stages and life events.
How do I start?
There are three ways you can start on the road to solid sleep: