Last week, we started our series on sleep training 101. This is the second part. If you missed the first one, catch up here.
Here are some practical ways to sleep train your child:
1. Bedtime routines
- Starts 30-40mins before your child goes to sleep.
- Should be predictable and relaxing.
- Should include baths, nappy changes, dressing in sleepwear, feeding, a story/song, and maybe some white noise.
- Keep all light emitting screens off and stay away from the living room or anything
- or anyone that suggests playtime.
- End with putting the baby in bed as he gets drowsy (don’t wait till the baby is asleep before putting them in bed).
Regardless of the sleep training method, you decide to combine or practice, always begin with a bedtime routine.
2. Independent settling
- Watch out for your baby’s sleep cues (e.g. decreased activities like movement and sounds, less eye focus/interest in the surroundings and drooping eyes).
- Warm the bed before placing the baby on it to sleep.
- Put something that has your scent nearby so he can smell you while he drifts off.
- Let the atmosphere be serene and calm.
- Make sure the baby stays in the same room with you for at least the first six months and feed on demand at night.
3. Cry it out
- Strictly not for children younger than six months and should be discontinued after two weeks if unsuccessful.
- Best practiced when parents are on leave or free or daytime engagements, and it involves both partners or other caregivers.
- Avoid eye contact at bed time throughout the training no matter what they do.
- Reassure with your voice once they wake up without touching/holding them and leave the room. Do it as many times a night as possible but not more than 10 times.
- Pat them and encourage them to lie back down if they stand up in bed crying for your attention.
- Clean up quietly after them if they vomit crying, and leave the room when you are done.
- If they get out of bed, return them back without speaking to them or looking at them in the eye. If they throw a tantrum and wreck the room, don’t tidy up till they are asleep.
- Be consistent, have a positive bedtime routine and ensure the room is safe and warm.
4. Other routines include:
- Pick up, put down which involves comforting the baby without really feeding.
- When the baby cries, you pick them up whisper to them, reassuring them ‘it’s okay’ then you put them back to bed while they are still awake and have quietened down. It’s not to be used on babies younger than three months.
- The gradual retreat which is meant for training children to sleep without their parents in the room. After their bedtime routine, you say good night to them and sit in a chair next to the bed. As time goes by, you keep increasing the distance between their bed and your chair until you take it out of the room completely. If they wake up while you are there, gently touch them while avoiding eye contact.
- Kiss good night which includes kissing your child every time they are awake in bed (before the baby sleeps and if they wake up) until they fall asleep. If they get out of bed, this technique allows you to bribe them with kisses. You can replace kisses with pats and strokes if they can’t be easily kissed in their cot. However, it’s not for children younger than 12 months of age.
- Bed sharing which involves letting them sleep on your bed with you. For babies, you need to learn how to breastfeed in a lying position. But this shouldn’t be done when either of you is sick, or if the baby is small/premature, if the parents are smokers/drinkers and if co-sleeping takes place on a sofa.
- Reduced night feeding which as the name suggests means cutting down on feeding at night. Give your child clear signs so they know when you are happy to feed them like sitting in a particular chair. That way when you don’t sit there, they get the message that no food is coming out tonight. You can start by deciding when you would prefer not to feed and if they wake up at night, give them water to drink instead. Dilute their milk with water and give it in a cup if they are bottle feeding. But don’t wake them up to eat at night and don’t use this technique if they have trouble gaining weight.
There you have it, work until your child’s sleeping challenges are a thing of the past.