Sleep is a very important part of your infant’s growth. A good nap not only restores a child’s energy, it also plays a crucial role in development of a child’s brain and body.
During the first three months, an infant will spend most of his or her time alternating between feeding and sleeping. Therefore consider the baby’s sleep schedule as a work-in-progress.
By the age of 4 to 6 months, infants will begin to sleep at a stretch of 8 to 12 hours. However, most infants have have trouble settling down to sleep on their own.
The process to ease babies into sleeping through the night is known as sleep training. Consult your doctor if you are unsure whether your child is ready for the process and ensure that your baby has no sleep-related medical conditions before you begin.
There are several sleep training techniques, and the right one for your child depends on how well your child responds to the training and what you as a parent are comfortable with.
Cry It Out (CIO) approach
This approach recommends infants to self-soothe by allowing a baby to cry himself or herself to sleep. It’s based on the assumption that children have difficulty sleeping on their own because they have become too dependant on parental soothing to put them to sleep and cry when denied the comfort.
According this approach, by giving in to your child’s tears, you as parent might be part of the problem. So the solution is for parents to let children cry it out. To learn more about the cry it out approach, read Dr. Weissbluth’s guide.
Who’s it for?
This technique is aimed at children aged 6 months or more, who are independent and enjoy learning on their own. It’s not recommended for energetic children. If your child exhibits separation anxiety, extreme fear or has a vomiting response, this technique is not for your child.
The Controlled Crying approach
Controlled crying is similar to the CIO approach with only one key difference being that in this approach, parents are allowed to check on their children albeit briefly. The most well known controlled crying method is ferberization which was developed by pediatrician Dr. Richard Ferber.
The goal of ferberization is to let your baby put himself or herself back to sleep. When ferberizing a baby, put your infant to bed when he or she is still awake and allow short periods of crying with intervals to comfort (not pick up) your child.
On the first night of training, check on your baby every 3 minutes or so; then, with each night, reduce the frequency of your intervals and increase the time you stay away. Slowly but surely, your child will sleep through the night without your help.
Who’s it for?
The controlled crying approach is a good substitute for parents who find the CIO approach too difficult. This approach is not appropriate for infants younger than 6 months and is not an appropriate treatment for children with real sleep problems (such as recurring nightmares).
The No Tears approach
This is a more gradual approach to sleep training, where parents don’t have to keep away from their little ones and involves fewer tears. The approach revolves around the idea that comforting your child at bedtime with nighttime rituals helps develop a good relationship with your child.
The most well known proponent for this approach is Dr. William Sears, author of The Baby Sleep Book and parent educator Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
Dr. Sears suggests night time rituals that enhance a positive sleep association with physical closeness, such as co-sleeping, rocking and nursing your baby to sleep. Pantley recommends customising night time rituals to suit your baby’s needs.
Who’s it for?
This approach is ideal for parents who feel uncomfortable to stay away when their child is crying. This is also a great approach for infants who are very attached to their primary caregivers and generally have a lot of energy.
Does It Work?
Every child is different, and one size does not fit all when it comes to sleep training. To find what technique best suits your child, it’s best to do the old fashioned trial and error. But first, try to understand your child, consult your local paediatrician, and above all be positive, soon enough, you’ll find one that works for you.
More from Makchic: 5 Tips to Make Bedtime Easier
Image Credit: pregnancyandbaby.com.