Whether Or Not You Should Sleep Train Your Baby
Some babies simply don’t need sleep training, as they are “good sleepers,” especially as they mature. Cultural differences regarding sleep practices and parental expectations also play a role.
However, if you’re thinking about sleep training it can be confusing. Because oftentimes parents feel strongly about whether, or not, to sleep train their baby.
Some parents may worry that it will strain their relationship with their baby. However, a 2016 study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that sleep training doesn’t have negative effects on the relationship between parents and baby, or on the baby’s emotions.
Researchers have also found that sleep training is not dangerous to the baby’s health and can actually be beneficial. For example, in a 2017 systematic review published in Nature and Science of Sleep, researchers reviewed ten separate sleep studies and reported a positive correlation between sleep and overall cognitive development, including memory, language, and executive function.
Additionally, poor sleep can have negative effects on cognitive development, making a case for sleep training. ” has a negative effect on mood regulation, attention, and behavior as well as on health and overall quality of life,” says Graw-Panzer.
When it comes down to it, sleep training is not one size fits all. If you choose to try it, you may have to experiment with different methods to see what works best for you as a parent and for your baby, until the whole family can sleep easy.
How Should Babies Sleep
The American of Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing without bed-sharing for or at least the first 6 months or, ideally, until a baby’s first birthday. This is when the risk ofSIDSis highest.
Room-sharing is when you place your baby’s crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This keeps baby nearby and helps with feeding, comforting, and monitoring baby at night.
While room-sharing is safe, putting your baby to sleep in bed with you is not.Bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
Follow these recommendations for a safe sleep environment for your little one:
Just As Adults Differ In Terms Of Their Sleep So Do Babies Alice Gregory
The most obvious example is for feeding. Compared to other primates, humans have relatively large brains but narrow birth canals, possibly to help us balance while walking on two feet. As a result, babies are born far more neurologically immature than other mammals a newborns brain volume is one-third an adults.
This means that human newborns need a lot of energy to develop quickly after birth. Theyre also relatively helpless, requiring constant closeness to their caregiver. As a result, instead of being high-fat which would satiate a baby and allow them to be left alone for longer periods breast milk is high-sugar, which is digested quickly and requires more frequent feeds. Add to that the fact that newborns have tiny stomachs, holding just 20ml at a time , and its clear why they need to feed so frequently day and night.
Young babies, they wake. Thats what they do: they feed and they wake, says Wendy Hall, a professor emeritus in the University of British Columbia School of Nursing and a long-time paediatric sleep researcher. Over time they start to develop a longer biological sleep period at night. By three months, that could be five or six hours if youre doing well. And thats a gift.
But it doesnt mean youre not getting up two or three times a night to feed them. It just means there may be a little bit longer stretch in there where they have a little bit longer sleep.
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Establish A Bedtime Routine
Its never too early to get a bedtime routine started. Your bedtime routine should be simple and sustainable, so its easy for you to do every night. Even the smallest change in your babys routine can leave them feeling off, and suddenly waking more frequently at night. Include calming, soothing activities that your baby seems to respond to, like swaddling and shushing. The bedtime routine can be where you create positive sleep associations for your baby.
Coping With Disturbed Nights
Try to resist the urge to rush in if your baby murmurs in the night. Depending on their age, you could leave them for a few minutes and see if they settle on their own. Having said that, newborn babies invariably wake up repeatedly in the night for the first few months and disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with.
If you’re formula feeding, you might like to encourage your partner to share the feeds. If you’re breastfeeding, you could ask your partner to take over the early morning changing and dressing so that you can go back to sleep.
Once you’re into a good breastfeeding routine, your partner could occasionally give a bottle of expressed breast milk during the night. If you’re on your own, you could ask a friend or relative to stay for a few days so that you can sleep.
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References: Baby Sleep Tips
Chonchaiya W, Wilaisakditipakorn T, Vijakkhana N, Pruksananonda C. 2017. Background media exposure prolongs nighttime sleep latency in Thai infants. Pediatr Res. 81:322-328.
Custodio RJ, Junior CE, Milani SL, Simões AL, de Castro M, Moreira AC. 2007. The emergence of the cortisol circadian rhythm in monozygotic and dizygotic twin infants: the twin-pair synchrony. Clin Endocrinol . 66:192-7.
Galland BC, Taylor BJ, elder DE, and Herbison P. 2012. opens in a new windowNormal sleep patterns in infants and children: A systematic review of observational studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews 16: 213-222.
Jian N and Teti DM. 2016. Emotional availability at bedtime, infant temperament, and infant sleep development from one to six months. Sleep Med. 23:49-58.
Kaur R, Bharti B, Saini SK. 2015. A randomized controlled trial of burping for the prevention of colic and regurgitation in healthy infants. Child Care Health Dev. 41:52-6.
Lohr B, Siegmund R. 1999. Ultradian and circadian rhythms of sleep-wake and food-intake behavior during early infancy. Chonobiology international 16: 129-148.
Nakagawa M, Ohta H, Nagaoki Y, Shimabukuro R, Asaka Y, Takahashi N, Nakazawa T, Kaneshi Y, Morioka K, Oishi Y, Azami Y, Ikeuchi M, Takahashi M, Hirata M, Ozawa M, Cho K, Kusakawa I, Yoda H. 2016. Daytime nap controls toddlers nighttime sleep. Sci Rep. 6:27246.
Teti DM, Kim BR, Mayer G, Countermine M. 2010. Maternal emotional availability at bedtime predicts infant sleep quality. J Fam Psychol. 24:307-15
What Is Crying It Out
There are different ways to think about helping babies learn to fall asleep on their own.
Graduated crying-it-out is when parents put their baby down after a bedtime routine and let the baby cry until they fall asleep. Parents check on the baby, waiting longer and longer periods of time before going in the room, starting at 2 minutes and gradually moving up to 30 minutes. This routine is repeated until the baby falls asleep independently.
Bedtime fading: Parents shift a babys bedtime later by 1015 minutes each night so the baby is tired at bedtime. When the baby reaches a point where he falls asleep soon after being put down, that becomes bedtime.
What does the research say?
Both graduated crying-it-out and bedtime fading helped babies fall asleep faster, compared to babies whose parents who received information about infant sleep .
Mothers who used graduated crying-it-out or bedtime fading showed less stress than moms who just received sleep information, but not strategies.
Families using graduated crying-it-out also found that their babies were less likely to wake during the night.
The choice of a bedtime strategy does not impact a babys relationship with parents. Parents dont damage their relationship with their babies by using graduated crying-it-out.
Whats the takeaway?
Some babies have a harder time than others learning to fall asleep on their own. Sleep challenges are probably one of the hardest parts of early parenting.
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Embrace Your Newborns Chaotic Sleep Schedule
In the first several weeks of life, babies are hungry at night, leading to an apparent reversal of day and night and erratic sleep patterns. Fortunately, this usually resolves by about 3 weeks of age, after which your child settles into a three- or four-hour cycle, typically following a pattern of waking, feeding and sleeping. At this point, exposing your baby to natural light during the day can help encourage longer periods of daytime wakefulness and more sleep at night.
Infants in the first several months of life typically need parental help soothing themselves to sleep. Rocking, patting, swaddling and nursing can all help.
How To Cope Until You Can Sleep Train Your Baby
Your newborns short, unpredictable snoozes and round-the-clock feedings can understandably leave you drained. But its a completely normal part of her development and one that wont last for very long.
That’s why sleep training and schedules should wait until your baby is older and more developmentally ready.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
- What to Expect the First Year, 3rd edition, Heidi Murkoff.
- Lynelle Schneeburg, PsyD, Author, Become Your Childs Sleep Coach, American Academy of Sleep Medicine Fellow.
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Safe Sleeping Where Should Your Baby Sleep
It’s up to you where your baby sleeps, but it is recommended that babies sleep in a cot in the same room as an adult for the first 6 to 12 months, since this has been shown to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome .
Always place a baby to sleep on their back with the head and face uncovered every time they sleep, night or day. Keep the room smoke-free.
White Noise Swaddling Bed Sharing Be Mindful Of Safety
There is an entire industry devoted to helping babies sleep. But are all infant sleep aids equally effective? Clearly not. In fact, some practices can even be harmful.
For example, there is reason to think that white noise can help babies sleep. But researchers have found that many sound machines sold for this purpose can produce noise at volumes that could harm an infants ears.
Likewise, the traditional practice of swaddling might help babies sleep longer, but certain kinds of tight swaddling can put your baby at risk for health problems.
For more information, see these opens in a new windowevidence-based baby sleep tips about sleep aids what works, what doesnt work, and what poses a hazard. The article includes evidence-based discussions of bedtime routines, infant massage, pacifiers, rocking, lavender, and other potential sleep aids.
What about bed-sharing? If you are considering it, learn about the potential hazards.
Throughout human history, in cultures throughout the world, mothers have lain alongside their infants. But people in these cultures were sleeping on very firm surfaces like mats on a hard floor and they didnt expose their infants to soft bedding, which can cause terrible suffocation accidents, and increase the risk of opens in a new windowSIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.
And for more information about minimizing the risk of SIDS, see these basic safety guidelines.
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Help Your Little One Learn To Fall Asleep Lying Still
Once she’s used to falling asleep being rocked or walked instead of eating, the next phase is to get her to fall asleep without rocking. So you begin with rocking, but then, before she is actually asleep, you stop rocking, and just sit, holding her calmly. If she protests, begin rocking again. Keep repeating this. It may take 25 attempts, but eventually she will begin falling asleep even though you have stopped rocking. Thats a real victory.
Do this for a week or so until she’s used to it as your new routine: getting sleepy while rocking and then falling asleep in your arms while not rocking.
Use Sounds To Encourage The Baby To Sleep
For some children, relaxing sounds and soothing music induce sleep, as do noises made by parents. With this, if possible, early on, look for a sound that pleases your baby and use it as an association with sleep.
By getting him used in this way, during the transition from the lap to the crib, the songs can serve as a calming and relaxing stimulus , facilitating the process so that he does not feel alone or unprotected.
Lullabies and even mobiles are also options that help to make the baby sleep alone. However, be careful to check what contributes most to the expected result, avoiding reverse stimulation or any other sensation that makes you wake up.
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The 3 Keys To Creating A Calming Environment
Make it Dark: You want to get your baby to associate nights with sleep, so keeping the room as dark as possible helps. The darkness will also prevent distraction and keep your baby calmer.
Add White Noise: White noise helps mask other distracting noises in the environment around them. It also mimics the noises your baby was used to in the womb to help them relax.
Take Note of the Temp: Temperature can have a surprisingly large impact on your baby’s sleep. Too cold and they might wake up often, too hot and their risk of SIDS increases. Keeping the room at 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is a good rule of thumb.
I strongly recommend adding white noise to your baby’s sleep environment as a positive sleep association.
What is White Noise?
Technically white noise is a sound produced by combining different frequencies with equal intensities together. White noise may be technically produced and may sound like a hum, a drone, a radio station on static, a fan, washing machine or even the sound of rain among others. Why do babies love white noise? Well they have spent 9 months in mothers womb, a place not known to be quiet. In fact it is deafeningly loud in there.
What is sleep drive?
Helping your baby sleep through mid-sleep arousal
Begin To Break The Association Between Nursing/eating/sucking And Sleep
If your baby needs you to feed him or give him something to suck on in order to fall asleep, then he will always call for you to help him fall back asleep during the night. So your next step is to gradually break the association between sucking and falling asleep.
Usually, babies find it easiest if you start by rocking them. Yes, this is another sleep “crutch.” But it’s an easier sleep association to break than sucking is.
Feed your baby when he first wakes up from sleep, and again a bit later if he is awake and still hungry. But when he is just sleepy, experiment with walking or rocking him instead of feeding him. That way, he begins to learn to fall asleep without sucking. Of course, you are still using rocking or walking to get him to sleep, but we’ll break that sleep association in the next phase.
PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT ever mean you withhold food from a hungry baby. You don’t start this until your baby is several months old, nursing or eating well, and physically thriving. Infants need to eat very often, so you will often find that your infant is hungry and tired at the same time. If you walk or rock your baby and he continues to cry and protest, then he may very well be hungry as well as tired. In that case, feed him right away.
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