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There are some parts of baby sleep training that you can do very early on, and others that should wait. The first part of sleep training which is a bedtime routine, can be done within the first few weeks. Starting a bedtime routine, is a great start and also helps with day/night confusion. Day/night confusion can resolve as fast as 2 weeks, and for other babies it can take up to 8 weeks. Starting a bedtime routine will help the day/night reversal by helping your baby associate nighttime with sleep. Create a routine that works best for you and your baby. Incorporate some activities your baby really enjoys. Here are some ideas: Sing a lullaby, a light massage, read a book, some cuddles, or anything else that helps calm your baby before bed. Keep the routine the same every night. This will help keep consistency, and will let your baby know exactly what to expect. When a baby knows what to expect, she is less likely to feel anxious about bedtime.
“Drowsy but Awake”
Another aspect of sleep training is putting your baby down awake…yes awake. How you put your baby to sleep, is how she will expect to fall asleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night. So if you put your baby to sleep awake and she falls asleep on her own, then she will do the same in the middle of the night without your help.
You can lay your baby down to sleep awake as early as the newborn age. Certainly you don’t want to force a young baby to do this, but sometimes just laying your baby down to see what happens, may surprise you. Some babies can at a very young age, just drift off to sleep without a fuss.
The next part of baby sleep training is getting your baby to sleep through the night without any feedings, if she is ready of course. Now the age for when this happens varies, and the best person to ask is your Pediatrician. Your Pediatrician knows your baby best. In order to start weaning your baby off of night-time feedings, your baby should be steadily gaining weight, growing in height, and not have any medical conditions. Most pediatricians and sleep experts says anywhere between 3-6 months, a baby is ready to sleep through the night without any feedings. At this point you can start testing your baby to see if she is truly hungry or just using you for comfort.
Now just because some babies are ready at this age, doesn’t mean they will sleep through the night. Some babies need some help learning good sleep habits, and reversing bad ones. That’s where sleep training comes in. Creating a consistent bedtime, following an age appropriate sleep schedule, teaching your baby to fall asleep on his/her own, and responding appropriately to nighttime wakings are some of the components of sleep training that will help your baby sleep through the night.
Get a Plan!
If your baby, is still waking up multiple times a night, or has other sleep troubles, then sleep training may be a great option. If you don’t know how or when to start sleep training, or need a sleep plan based on your baby’s individual situation. I am available for one on one help. Learn more about my Baby Sleep Consulting Packages
Sleep training is not easy and it will never be perfect. Here are some bumps in the road you can expect during the first year. This doesn’t mean you should avoid all of these bumps, but certainly keep them in the back of your mind. Handling these bumps appropriately, will be the key to your sleep training success.
Bumps in the Road
- Day/night confusion. It can take a baby 6-8 weeks to get over day/night confusion.
- Your baby’s sleep-wake cycle doesn’t start to develop until 6 weeks. By 3-6 months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Your baby won’t start producing enough melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, until about 2-3 months. Getting to sleep and staying sleep might take some effort before this age.
- Your baby will also hit their first 3 growth spurts during this time (1 week, 3 weeks, and 6 weeks)
- First sleep regression. Baby is learning new skills, rolling, turning, kicking and wants to practice even at night when she should be sleeping.
- 3 month growth spurt.
- Sitting. Babies love to practice sitting, especially when you lay them down to sleep.This will pass once your baby has mastered the skill.
- 6 month growth spurt
- 2nd sleep regression. Babies loves practicing their emerging skills like crawling in their sleep. It’s going to be hard to get your baby to sleep. Be patient. Once your baby figures out the skill she is practicing, she will go back to a normal sleep schedule.
- Babies also understand object permanence at this age. Meaning they know something exists even when its not in sight. So when your baby wakes up at night she may miss you, and may start looking for you.
- Separation anxiety starts to peak. It’s going to be hard for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep some nights. Especially when you come back from a party or event, where your baby was around many unfamiliar faces. Your baby may be nervous about separating from you.
- Standing. There will be times when you are going to lay your baby down, and up to a standing position she will go. Your baby may practice this skill over and over until it is mastered.
- Language development. Babies are thinking of words they have learned, and may be practicing them in their little heads, when they should be sleeping.
- 12 month regression. Babies are going through tremendous physical development as they are learning to walk and even climb. This can definitely carry over into sleep.
- At this age, your baby enjoys “testing” you. Now that she is discovering that what she does, has a direct effect on your reaction, she may start to refuse naps and bedtime, just to see what you will do. You might of had a very easy baby up until this point, and now she may start fighting all sleep times.
You can definitely work around these bumps, or figure them in to your sleep training plan. If you wait, you may never have a chance to sleep train because a baby is constantly developing, physically and cognitively. The only time I really don’t recommended sleep training is when a baby is sick or uncomfortable.
If you are ready, but have no idea how and when to start baby sleep training, I offer personalized sleep plans and support. I will create a step by step sleep plan of how to help your baby to sleep well, based on your baby’s unique situation. I will also be only an email away when questions come up during training. Please take a look a my Sleep Consultation Packages, or see what others are saying about how I have helped their little ones sleep through the night.