Sleep training is the process of training your baby to fall asleep on their own. Many people use the Ferber Method (a technique invented by Richard Ferber) to help solve infant sleep problems. It involves teaching your baby to self-soothe so that they aren’t dependent on you to help them fall back asleep when they wake in the middle of the night.
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A bedtime routine
I’ve done a whole post on the importance of a bedtime routine if you’d like to read about that as well. But basically, having a bedtime routine helps signal to your baby that it’s time to start winding down. This is helpful when sleep training.
Transitioning your baby out of the swaddle is also a good idea. Once they are able to roll from back to stomach, they shouldn’t be swaddled anymore because they need to be able to hold their head up in the crib.
Start them young
Most experts recommend that you start sleep training around 4-6 months. By this time, babies have started developing a regular sleep wake cycle and they are able to go longer amounts of time between feedings. Here’s an article about dropping night feedings.
As I mentioned earlier, transitioning your baby from the swaddle is a good idea. Once they aren’t dependent on being swaddled and you’ve dropped their night feedings, there’s nothing you can’t do!
Crying is okay
It’s important to understand that your baby NEEDS to learn how to self soothe in order for them to put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night.
If your baby knows that you will come running when they cry out, and that you’ll rock or caress them back to sleep, they aren’t going to learn to do it themselves.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go see if your baby is okay when they cry.
But if it’s the middle of the night and they’re just stirring a little, don’t go running into their room.
If they seem hungry or like they need snuggles – comfort them, feed them, rock them. But limit your time in the room to say… 2 minutes.
Go in for 2 minutes, nurse or feed them, rock them, comfort them, and then leave. Let them cry for a few minutes before returning.
Once they realize that they’re okay without you in the middle of the night, they won’t cry out to be put back to sleep. They’ll just do it.
It will be worth it in the end
Another thing to remember is that IT. WILL. BE. WORTH. IT. I promise, momma. Once your baby is sleeping through the night, it’s a whole new ball game. You sleep better, you have more energy, and you just FEEL better altogether. If you haven’t started sleep training, it’s not too late. Give it a try. & if it doesn’t seem like it’s working, stop for a few days, and then try again. Your baby will get the hang of it soon enough.
If you’re already rocking him/her to sleep, that’s okay. I was also rocking my baby when I decided to start sleep training.
Start by rocking your baby for a set amount of time. So instead of rocking them completely to sleep in your arms, read them a story, let them drink their night bottle, and rock them for a set amount of time, say 10 minutes.
Each night, rock them 1-2 minutes less. For example, the first night rock them 10 minutes, the second, 9 minutes, the third, 8, so on and so forth. So your routine will be: night time routine (bath, lavender lotion, pajamas), a bottle and a story, rocking for a set amount of time, place baby in crib and walk out.
If your baby cries when you leave the room, it’s OKAY. Let them cry for a few minutes. I know it seems like a really long time when they’re crying, but stick with it! After about 5 minutes, return to the room, caress them, cuddle them, and then put them back in the crib.
I never picked my baby up when I returned to the room, I just patted her back and shushed her and she calmed down. Everyone is different though, so if you want to pick your baby up to calm him/her, that’s up to you. But, try to limit your time in the room to 1 minute or less.
If they cry when you leave the room again, it’s okay. Again, they’re learning to self-soothe. So don’t beat yourself up. This time, let them cry for 10 minutes before returning. Keep increasing the time between going in the room.
Are you still with me? Good!
So after you are down to rocking them for about 3 minutes, stand up instead of sitting down and sway them in your arms. For example, sit down, read them their story, feed them their bottle, and as soon as they’re done eating, stand up and walk to the crib. Sway them in your arms for 2 to 3 minutes and then put them in bed.
Follow the same routine for the Ferber Method each night. Let them cry for 5 minutes, then 10, then 15. Longer each time you leave the room.
The next night, sway them in your arms for 1-2 minutes.
Once they are used to being swayed in your arms before going in the crib, stand still with them next to the crib.
So again, start by sitting in a chair, reading their story and feeding them their bottle. Immediately stand up and walk over to the crib. Stand completely still with them for one minute. After you have held them in your arms for 1 minute and they are calm, place them in their crib.
Remember, it’s okay to leave the room if they are crying. Just follow the Ferber Method and increase the amount of time you’re gone before each trip into the room.
After they are used to being in your arms, standing completely still, for one minute, switch it up again. So now your routine will be: bedtime routine, lavender lotion (to relax and soothe them), pajamas, let them finish their bottle, BUT now, you will read them a story AFTER they are laying in the crib. Remember crying is okay. Lay them in the crib, grab their book, read to them, give them a kiss, and say goodnight. Walk out of the room.
Once they are used to reading their story in the crib, you can give them their bottle before their bedtime routine.
For example, we feed our baby dinner and then give her a bottle right after her bath. Her bath begins her bedtime routine. After her bath, we go into her room, get her pajamas on (this is when she gets her bottle), and she goes directly into the crib for her bedtime story. After her story, I give her a goodnight kiss and walk out of the room. She puts herself to sleep in about 15 minutes and sleeps through the night (with no bottle, pacifier, or fussing!)
Did you follow a sleep training routine? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!
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