As your newborn gets older and can self-soothe, you can start sleep training your baby so that you can get something most new parents dream of experiencing again: a full night of sleep!
When it comes to extending your baby’s night-time snooze, there are a few things to consider so that you don’t have to let your baby cry themselves to sleep.
First, it’s important to remember that every baby is unique and there is no magic “trick” to get your little one to start sleeping through the night. Approaching this transition in a holistic way and understanding your infant’s sleep cycle goes a long way.
Pediatrician Noah Schwartz, MD, explained to Cleveland Clinic that parents can start sleep training their babies when they reach about four months old. “At this age, babies are typically old enough to learn to self soothe, and may no longer require night feedings. Additionally, at around four months, your baby’s sleep cycles begin to mature and their circadian rhythm (the hormonal cycle which regulates our sleep-wake cycles) starts to take effect.”
Here are a few steps to take to help your little one sleep through the night:
- Sleep And Wake
One of the keys to sleep training is to let your baby figure out how to fall asleep without you rocking them or feeding them to sleep – that way, if they wake up, they can soothe themselves back to sleep instead of waking you up.
Happiest Baby recommends the Sleep and Wake method.
“Every evening at bedtime, swaddle your little one, turn on rough white noise as loud as a shower, feed and burp her, let her fall asleep in your arms and then lay her down.”
Then, after they’re in their crib, gently scratch their feet so that they open their eyes. A few seconds later, their little eyes will close again and they will fall back asleep.
If your baby is fussy and won’t fall back asleep, or doesn’t want to fall asleep in the first place, they might be uncomfortable or too stimulated.
To avoid this, having a relaxing routine for your baby is essential.
- A Routine Is Super Important
There are a few things to do to coax your little one into a more relaxed state so that they can easily slip into dreamland.
A warm bath, a little massage, dimmed lights, and a soothing lullaby can all help soothe a baby. Try and stick to the routine that works for your baby – so every evening, do the same things so your infant knows that they’re going to be going to sleep soon.
“Keep anything stimulating—like tickling, watching TV, or playing with electronic toys—out of the equation. Following a consistent routine lets your baby know it’s time for bed, and it also develops their internal clock,” explains Parents.
Your baby’s nap routine is also important. Don’t put your infant down for a nap too close to bedtime.
Get my free recommended routine for babies two to six weeks old here.
Top Tip: Following a sleep training routine isn’t the same as going through a strict schedule! We all know that life happens – you’re not always going to bath your baby at exactly the same time. Plus, your baby is always changing. Babies go through growth spurts, developmental leaps, teething, and illness. Knowing the “why” behind every activity can help you develop a route that can keep up with your lifestyle and your baby’s changes.
- Feed On Cue
Another thing that doesn’t have to follow a strict schedule is feeding your infant.
Instead of timing your baby’s feeds and watching the clock for the next “right” time to feed, learn to listen to your little one’s cues – they’ll let you know when they need to eat.
“A baby that is preparing itself to feed will show you signs that they are ready but watch closely because the signs may initially be subtle and these are known as early feeding cues. Your baby may start to rouse from sleep, start licking their lips or opening their mouth,” says Medela.
Crying is considered to be a late hunger cue.
Just like learning their signs for hunger, you can learn their other cues, too.
- Soothe Your Baby When They’re Overstimulated
If your baby is feeling overwhelmed, they’ll let you know. We’ll want them to be calm when sleep training.
What To Expect recommends, “Retreat with your baby to cuddle quietly, away from people and noise. Sucking on a pacifier also soothes, or you can try swaddling her in a light blanket so she feels safe and snug.”
Take a look around. Check if your baby’s room quiet or can you hear the TV from another room. Is the light dimmed or is it on full blast? Is the room cozy, or chilly? Make sure your baby’s room is organized in such a way that it promotes sleep and doesn’t overstimulate them.
Then, to help soothe them, swaddle. Wrapping your baby up in secure warmth can help transition them from a crying state into a calm state.
When choosing a swaddle, make sure your baby is able to have their arms midline to their body when wrapped and that the fabric is stretchy and secure.
- Fade Into The Desired Bedtime
Also, read your baby’s cues when they’re just simply not ready for sleep. This is where the bedtime fading method can help, as it works to adjust your infant’s natural rhythms to be more in line with the desired bedtime.
What To Expect explains, “Pay attention to baby’s sleep cues (eye rubbing, yawning, turning away from lights or sound, fussiness). Once your baby seems tired, put her to bed.”
If they start crying, you can take them out for a set amount of time to soothe them.
After you’ve gone through putting them to bed at this time for a few nights, start moving bedtime up by 15 minutes at a time until you reach the desired time.
Navigating the processes of caring for your little one can be challenging. To help you feel confident in the decisions you make as a mother, I created Babies Made Simple. This is an online course for new or seasoned parents from birth through toddlerhood. Ready to get started? Click here.