Whether it’s short naps, settling them for a nap is taking longer than the actual nap, taking ages to settle at bedtime so you don’t have a meal or get to see your other half, or the despair of having a baby that wakes often in the night and can be awake for long periods of time wanting to party- many parents find getting their baby to sleep or keeping them asleep, really difficult.
This can all be really frustrating and difficult for the whole family! I’m going to guide you through different Sleep Settling (I don’t like the word ‘training’, it sounds like they’re in Baby Boot Camp!) techniques so you can see what works for you.
Here a few things to do before starting-
- Before you start any type of Sleep Training, see your GP and get baby checked over. Make sure they aren’t suffering from any medical issues like reflux, cow’s milk protein allergy or other food allergies- many babies are either misdiagnosed with colic or just being a cry baby. Babies cry for a reason.
- Put aside at least a week to dedicate to this task. You want baby to be in their cot for nap times for this to be successful. Babies that sleep in different places i.e. car seat/pram/sling will wake more often at night as the cot doesn’t move, and they need the feeling of motion to be able to get to sleep.
- Make sure you have total blackout in the Nursery and in the pram. Darkness produces the sleepy hormone melatonin so will ensure your baby goes to sleep much more easily, and for longer. Light coming in from the top and sides of curtains can impact their sleep and even the light from the video monitor shining in the cot can wake them fully-so tape over the light.
- Having a swaddle for your baby from birth will mean they still feel safe and snug like they were in the womb, just make sure it’s a light breathable material, that isn’t too tight over their hips and one that can’t go over their face – Try the brilliant Swaddle UP – this helps babies assume their natural position for sleeping.
- Introduce a sleep aid that plays calming constant sound. This can encourage babies go to sleep more easily, help with self-soothing and also transitioning between light sleep phases so baby sleeps longer- this can also help with early morning waking’s. From 4 months your baby can have a comforter to hold – use a muslin square as that is the lightest most breathable material. Knot it in the middle so it can’t get wrapped around your baby.
Now you have everything in place here are the types of Sleep Training
1.Cry it out /extinction
This method is where you put your baby in their cot and leave the room. You don’t return until morning.
This is usually used when parents have tried everything and are desperate.
In my opinion this is quite a harsh way of teaching your baby how to sleep and why Sleep Training has got such a bad name. Unless there is no other way, I don’t recommend this.
This is where you leave your baby in their cot and go back after a certain number of minutes .Usually 5 minutes ,10 minutes ,15 minutes. You don’t return in that time.
This method is what the NHS recommend if your baby doesn’t sleep. It can and does work for many parents who are in need of help, but if your baby has a medical reason like reflux then this won’t work as your baby won’t settle if they are in pain. Again I don’t like the idea of a baby crying for periods of time, but many parents choose this method.
This method is where you gradually remove ‘sleep props’ from baby .So reduce the amount of milk, the time it takes to rock or pat. The time you hold their hand, sit next to the cot/bed
This method is more gentle and is really effective for babies who feed often or who are rocked to sleep. The only issue is that it can take a number of weeks for things to get better. Many parents swear by this method, especially for toddlers when getting to sleep by themselves without you next to them.
4.Pick up-Put down
This method is for when your baby cries out for you pick them up. You soothe them then put them back down when they are calm again- this is a very gentle method.
The issue with this method is it can take a while to see results and often involves picking them up over 20 times, which should reduce over time. This works for many parents who don’t want their baby to cry too much. The down side is your baby can get even more upset when you put them back in the cot. It can also mean that your baby often falls asleep on you, creating an even bigger sleep prop issue.
5.Spaced Soothing – my method
This is a gentle method that helps babies to love their sleep. You settle baby in their cot and leave them and go away and listen for sleep noises and quiet gaps- babies make lots of noises before they settle to sleep.
If your baby is making these noises then you can leave them to settle themselves to sleep. If they get upset then wait 1 minute before going in to soothe them for a few minutes by patting. The next time, leave them for 2 minutes before soothing. Eventually leave up to 5 minutes. If at any time your baby is getting upset then go in and soothe earlier, you can soothe for around 5 minutes to calm. You can pick them up if they won’t calm in the cot, then back in the cot to continue soothing.
The key to any Sleep Settling is consistency. We often give up on many things if we don’t get instant results. Often day 3-4 can be difficult as it’s a transition period where your baby wants to make sure you are going to continue, a test if you like. If you continue for at least a week then you will see the results and baby won’t have remembered their old routine.