Which Sleep Training Style Should Parents Choose
Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician based in Southern California and author of Mommy Calls, advises her parents to start sleep training almost from birth. It starts with newborns having a comfortable, safe sleep environment, typically a crib or bassinet. By the time the babies are 2 to 3 months of age, parents should put them to bed when they are drowsy but not yet asleep.
It can really benefit them in the long run because self-soothing and sleeping techniques really stay with them throughout their entire lives, said Altmann, who is also the author of What to Feed Your Baby. However, it can be helpful to try sleep training for babies who are still having trouble sleeping by 6 months, she added.
How Long You Should Let Your Baby Cry It Out Is Your Choice
Just because most babies take at least a half of an hour to cry themselves to sleep doesnt mean that you have to let them cry that long. How long you let your baby cry is ultimately your choice.
Its okay to set restrictions on how long you let your baby cry. Its also okay to decide that youll let your baby cry however long it takes.
Just remember that a single nights worth of crying it out isnt enough to prompt a lasting change. Its going to take about a week to create that newer, better sleep habit.
And know that nights 3-5 will, according to several hundred surveyed parents, be the next worst. After that, things calm down significantly.
So if you choose to use cry it out sleep training, own that choice. Set up how you want to use it. Then give it time to work.
That being said, there is literature on how long you should let your babies cry at various ages.
- Newborns and swaddled babies should NOT do cry it out. Read why that is in my article here. Ive got some great tips and information for you there.
- One-year-olds can cry it out. And it usually takes 1-2 hours, with one hour being far more common. If your baby is about a year old, make sure you read my article on doing cry-it-out with 1-year-olds.
Sleep Myth : Babies On Solid Foods Sleep Longer
Many parents have heard that starting solids early or adding cereal to their babys bottle will help their child sleep through the night. This is a myth. There is no research to support it, and in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages feeding babies solid foods before four months of age. This is due to their immature digestive systems and their lack of oral-motor skills. Some studies even indicate that early introduction of solids can trigger food allergies.
It is normal and expected that babies younger than 4 months will wake during the night. Beginning at about 4 months, you can start helping your baby learn to sleep though the night.
Until then, your young infant will be plenty full on a liquid diet, without using solids. Make the babys last feeding part of his bedtime routine. And try to put your baby down while he is still awake, but drowsy. If you have concerns about your childs weight gain or sleep patterns, talk to your health care provider.
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Dr Marc Weisbluths Cio Advice
This idea of extinction is not a new ideaparents have been doing it for generations.
But in the late 1990s a Sleep Disorders Specialist at Chicagos Childrens Memorial Hospital, Dr. Marc Weisbluth, wrote a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
Weisbluth described the Cry It Out method as the best way to get your baby to fall asleep starting as early as 4 months old.
And thats what many parents have done ever since, and for many families, it works.
Parents lay their baby down in the crib, turn off the light, close the door, walk out, and do not return until the morning.
These families see results in 1-3 nights. As a result, they often feel that the difficulty of hearing their baby cry for so long was worth it to get everyones sleep back on track.
Varying Methods To Success
Two different sleep training methods were employed in the Pediatrics study.
One-third of the group tried graduated extinction, which involves parents delaying response to a babys cries for longer and longer stints before going in to comfort them.
Another third used bedtime fading with the concept, in a nutshell, designed to postpone bedtime based on a babys level of sleepiness.
Bedtime fading, the Flinders researchers found, was nearly as effective as graduated extinction. Those babies fell asleep 12 minutes faster than the control group.
But that option, says Abu-Isa, is counterintuitive to what she recommends to parents based on her own childrens experience
Although Abu-Isa questioned the studys small sample size, she agreed with the overall conclusion: Crying doesnt pose a danger.
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When Do You Start Putting Baby Down Awake
When should I start putting my baby down when shes drowsy but awake? Theres no set age for starting down the drowsy but awake path you can start from birth, or introduce it even if youve been rocking your little one to sleep for months. Give it a shot as part of your regular evening schedule.
Some Crying Is Not Harmful To A Young Baby
Klein, who is the author of How Toddlers Thrive, points out that a little crying is fine for young infants in the three to six month age range. Although, there are certain times when a parent needs to step in.
“If you have a baby who just moves into hysterics and can’t get off of that, then you do need to go in and calm them and soothe them,” said Klein, who suggests rubbing the infant’s back or another gentle gesture to help calm the child down. “The whole purpose of helping a baby learn to go to sleep is helping them learn to calm themselves enough to fall back to sleep. They go up and get upset, but can they come back down. As much as the world would like to make it about ‘do you let them cry or don’t you,’ it’s kind of a between answer.”
Klein told INSIDER that there is no evidence that the cry-it-out method is harmful to infants, but reminds caretakers that a baby’s cries should always be viewed in the context of the parent-infant relationship.
“Crying is a baby’s way of telling us that they need something like they are hungry, sick, need a diaper change, but it’s also a way one of the few ways they have to regulate themselves,” she said. “As long as there is a loving and nurturing relationship happening with the baby during the day, then they won’t feel abandoned and probably they aren’t going to have lifelong problems because they learned to cry-it-out at night. A nice bedtime routine that nurtures them into bed is helpful, too.”
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What Is The Cry It Out Method
Cry it Out is a sleep training method that requires you to let your baby shed some tears and be his fussy self for a set period of time. Typically, youll do this at gradually increasing intervals of time, before you intervene by consoling or feeding your baby. The goal of cry it out is to teach your baby to self-soothe and put himself to sleep.
When Does Letting Baby Cry It Out Become A Problem
Letting your baby cry it out becomes a problem in several instances:
|When Crying Is a Problem||Why Its a Problem|
|The babys cries get ignored on a regular basis, not just during cry it out.||This is child abuse .|
|The baby has been crying it out hard and long enough that theyve become physically ill.||The babys physical status and safety have become compromised. They need care and attention.|
|Your baby has been crying long enough that you cant handle it, no matter how long that is.||If letting your baby cry it out is problematic for you as the parent, its time to pick a different sleep training method.|
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About Newborn Baby Behaviour
Sleeping, feeding, crying. Thats what newborn behaviour is all about in the first few months.
Although your baby might give you some eye contact, crying is probably the main thing youll notice about your babys behaviour. For example, your baby will cry because they feel hungry, unsettled, wet or uncomfortable, or just because they need a cuddle. And sometimes your baby will cry for no obvious reason.
Babies are born with very different temperaments. Some are relaxed and easygoing, and others seem to be more intense. Some seem to move constantly, and others are quieter. Some are cheerful most of the time, and others are more serious.
Why Should We Avoid Crying It Out
The brain is developing quickly. When the baby is greatly distressed, it creates conditions for damage to synapses, the network construction which is ongoing in the infant brain. The hormone cortisol is released. In excess, it’s a neuron killer but its consequences may not be apparent immediately . A full-term baby , with only 25% of its brain developed, is undergoing rapid brain growth. The brain grows on average three times as large by the end of the first year . Who knows what neurons are not being connected or being wiped out during times of extreme stress? What deficits might show up years later from such regular distressful experience?
Disordered stress reactivity may be established not only in the brain with the stress response system but also in the body through the vagus nerve, a nerve that affects functioning in multiple systems . For example, prolonged distress in early life can result in a poorly functioning vagus nerve, which is related to various disorders as irritable bowel syndrome . See more about how early stress is toxic for lifelong health from the recent Harvard report, The Foundations of Lifelong Health are Built in Early Childhood).
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What Can Help A Crying Baby
You can’t spoil your baby with too much attention. To soothe a crying baby:
- First, make sure your baby doesn’t have a fever. In a baby, a fever is a temperature of 100.4°F . Call the doctor right away if your baby does have a fever.
- Make sure your baby isn’t hungry and has a clean diaper.
- Rock or walk with the baby.
- Sing or talk to your baby.
- Offer the baby a pacifier.
- Take the baby for a ride in a stroller.
- Hold your baby close against your body and take calm, slow breaths.
- Give the baby a warm bath.
- Pat or rub the baby’s back.
- Place your baby across your lap on his or her belly and rub your baby’s back.
- Put your baby in a swing or vibrating seat. The motion may be soothing.
- Put your baby in an infant car seat in the back of the car and go for a ride. Often, the vibration and movement of the car are calming.
- Play music some babies respond to sound as well as movement.
Some babies need less stimulation. Babies 2 months and younger may do well swaddled, lying on their back in the crib with the lights very dim or dark. Make sure the swaddle isn’t too tight. Stop swaddling when the baby is starting to be able to roll over.
How To Soothe A Baby Crying At Night
When your baby wakes up suddenly crying at night, there are a few quick steps you can run through in an attempt to figure out whats wrong :
- See if their basic needs have been met. Ahmed suggests checking off boxes in your head: Has your baby been fed? Changed? Do they feel warm or cold? Sometimes the solution is as simple as feeding your baby, changing their diaper, or swaddling them again.
- Try to assess if theyre in physical pain. If your baby has been chewing on everything during the day, theyre probably teething and a little gum massage or age-appropriate dose of Tylenol might help. If they seem gassy, Ahmed recommends doing some bicycle kicks or even giving some gas drops but check with your pediatrician.
- Gauge your older babys emotional response to you showing up in their bedroom in the middle of the night. If theyre happy to see you, they probably have separation anxiety. If they settle down as soon as you pick them up or pop the paci back in their mouth, theyve likely become dependent on a sleep prop.
If babys basic needs are met, then its likely they need to develop some self-soothing behaviors for themselves, Ahmed explains.
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Avoiding The Cry It Out Method
Ill let you in on a little secret: Its possible for your baby to sleep a 6-hour stretch within a few weeks whereas sleep training is usually not attempted or recommended until 4 months. And in most cases with my technique, youll avoid the all-dreaded cry it out.
Rocking your baby to sleep is a great joy of parenting. Ive seen moms and dads work to perfect the artistry of sliding a zonked baby into bed and keeping her asleep. But doing that every night keeps her from learning to self-soothe it also makes her more reliant on YOU in the middle of the night.
My technique is called wake and sleep because when you place your sleeping baby down, you need to wake her upjust a littleand let her get back to sleep on her own. Whats amazing is that you can start teaching your child this healthy sleep habit from day one.
It works best to use wake and sleep together with Happiest Babys SNOO Smart Bassinet, baby bed made to help teach self-soothing.
Letting Baby Cry It Out Is Effective But Controversial
Have you ever asked other parents their opinion on crying it out? Opinions and anecdotal evidence are all over the map. After extensive research and surveying parents, heres what I can conclude: most parents agree that cry it out is effective. But not all parents think its a humane way to sleep train.
In fact, bringing up cry it out is far more likely to cause a long-winded argument between opinionated parents than it is to provide an open and helpful dialogue.
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