Sleep is important, that’s a given. Sleeping well and enough is critical (young parents wouldn’t dare challenge us on that!). Babies – and so do we – need to develop clear and consistent sleep patterns. But some do need a little push.
What is sleep training about?
Basically, it is about resetting your baby’s internal clock i.e. what regulates their sleep cycle. Sleep training consists in helping toddlers learn to fall asleep – initially with help but eventually on their own – and sleep all through the night without waking up.
Why doesn’t my baby sleep all through the night?
Many things can disturb a baby’s sleep cycle – just like ours. Waking up during the night is especially common as babies start hitting several developmental milestones – such as teething, weaning or potty training. Sickness and travelling can also be factors. A (common) disorder known as ‘separation anxiety’ can be responsible for such disturbances around their 6th month; babies develop the ability to recognize and remember things and people and can experience anxiety when those are out of their sight.
Should I sleep train my baby?
It depends. Obviously, if your baby already has a fairly consistent sleep pattern – some parents have it easier than others – and sleeps all through the night, there is no point in training him or her to adopt a different cycle. Experts agree that sleep training is appropriate only for toddlers with inconsistent sleep patterns when night feedings have been dropped. Before embarking upon a sleep training journey, we recommend that you consult your baby’s paediatrician to make sure that no medical condition is disturbing their sleep cycle and get their avail to start the training.
Which sleep training options are available?
Once the paediatrician has given you a go, you can start trying different methods in order to find the one that works for your baby. Many techniques have been developed by sleep experts – from slowly pushing back baby’s bedtime, to the ‘cry out’ strategy or the wake-to-sleep approach – among many others.
If you ask your helper to do night shift or sleep with your baby, you have to train her directly and ask her to try the sleep training techniques with your baby. Nevertheless, you have to pay attention to the minimum rest periods she needs and thus make sure that your domestic worker gets enough time off during the day.
You should definitely check out some of the must-reads such as The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hoggs, Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber and The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley to get familiar with the various (and most popular) methods out there. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all technique – and that what worked with your first baby might not work with your second one. Adopt a try-and-adjust approach.
Another increasingly popular option is to resort to sleep clinics and sleep consultants – that is sleep experts who observe and correct babies’ sleep pattern – to help sleep train your baby. You might want to try some of the above-mentioned methods first – especially if you are on a tight budget – as resorting to sleep experts might be a bit pricey. You can also enrol your domestic helper to a dedicated training course to learn self-settling techniques. Whatever you decide, do not go for something you are not comfortable with.
Keep in mind that sleep training won’t be effective overnight – it can take up to a few weeks – and timing is everything (do not start sleep training if you are on holidays for example). No matter what you decide, consistency, perseverance, and persistence are key!