This is the most common question you will get as the parent of a newborn baby: Does your child sleep through the night? It's not about her favorite toy or whether she likes to take a bath. The first thing on people's minds is whether she sleeps.
We all know that sleep is important for our health. But it’s also important for our being. We can’t be our best selves when we lack sleep. Our relationships with our spouses, with friends, and even with our own kids are compromised when we don’t sleep enough.
The problem is that our babies aren’t born sleeping through the night for 12 hours straight. As newborns, they just can’t sleep for long stretches. And that means our sleep will be broken up too.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to last very long. Once your baby is of “sleep training age” you can work on getting her sleeping better. But how? What does that mean? When? With all these questions we turn to books, internet (be careful with what you read!), friends, pediatricians and then before we know it our heads are spinning because we’ve had so many different opinions thrown at us.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Your child might not be ready. Every child is different, and we can’t expect them all to develop exactly the same way; so too with sleep. Still, there are some guidelines for when you can expect to start sleep training. Anything younger than 4 months is a definite no, and anything after 6 months is a go! Between 4 and 6 months, some parents will find positive results in sleep training their child, but not all.
2. You don’t have to stop breastfeeding to do sleep training. Many nursing moms feel that they will have to give up nursing in order to get their child sleeping longer and better. This is not true. Speaking as a mom of 3 who nursed all while still doing sleep training, it is possible! You can definitely nurse as long as you want, while doing sleep training. What we work on is removing the nursing to sleep association.
3. Is my only option to do the “Cry It Out” method? No. You do not have to do this method. What you do need to know is that your child will cry for at least part of the learning process. But you do not need to leave her crying by herself the whole night with no response from you. Instead, you can be in the room to comfort your child, while removing all sleep crutches and helping her learn how to put herself to sleep.
4. So, what does sleep training involve? When you sleep train your child, you are having her learn how to put herself to sleep at the onset of sleep, so she can do it again--by herself--in the middle of the night. The key is putting her down awake in her crib, and responding consistently throughout the process. If she’s already asleep when she is put down in her crib, she will not have the opportunity to learn how to put herself to sleep. And if you start responding inconsistently (leaving her to cry one time, then later picking her up, and then feeding her, etc.) this will only confuse her more and will result in inconsistent sleep behavior on her part as well.
5. What if my child still needs to feed at night? You can still improve her sleep! It is commonly recommended to remove all night feeds starting at the age of 6 months; however, there are parents that aren’t ready to do that, and sometimes a pediatrician might recommend keeping them. That’s OK! You can still have your child sleep longer stretches, and feed when needed.
So what’s my next step?
- Rule out any medical concerns, and get your pediatrician’s approval.
- Make sure your child is over the age of 19 weeks (adjusted age).
- Contact me to set up your consultation and we can begin the process!
Here’s to more sleeping babies (and parents!)