Maybe you nurse to sleep or hold your baby on your shoulder while he naps and get an hour or two of sleep at a time.
If your baby isn’t old enough to sleep through the night without feeds, these few hour chunks of sleep may work well for everyone…
But as your baby gets older, and should be sleeping longer stretches at a time, if he’s still dependent on you to get him to sleep, you’ll never get there!
When your baby relies on a sleep prop, he’s fully dependent on you to get from Point A awake to Point B asleep (or 90% of the way). He only knows how to fall asleep with you lulling him to sleep – with feeding, rocking, holding, the swing, the ergo, etc. – so it’s pretty unrealistic for him to be able to go into his crib one day and magically be able to fall asleep on his own!
Have you ever worked really hard to get your baby to sleep – fed him, put him in the swing, with a pacifier and the white noise machine, with the whole process taking 30-45 minutes – and then he only slept for 20 minutes?
Sooooo frustrating, but there’s a reason that’s happening!
When you get your baby to sleep without him needing to do any of the work, he won’t be able transition into the next sleep cycle and/or something (noise, discomfort, etc) will more easily wake him up – and he won’t be able to self soothe back to sleep. He’ll cry because he can’t do it on his own and wants you to recreate how he originally fell asleep!
You can see how this could quickly turn into Groundhog Day and naps (or night time) being the bane of your existence…
Remember that sleep is a learned behavior. Some kiddos pick it up naturally as their parents provide some consistency and routine, but some need more of a nudge to start developing a strategy on their own.
You can’t do sleep training with young babies because they still need to eat in the middle of the night, but you can start laying a healthy foundation for good sleep habits. (If this is something you’d like to start doing, check out my Newborn page!)
For older babies, there are a few things you’ll want to think about before you start sleep training and getting rid of those sleep props. Whether you use a book or work with someone to iron out the issues, here are a few of things to keep in mind:
1. Make sure you choose a method that you’re comfortable with
It doesn’t matter if the method is proven to work…if you feel like that you won’t be able to follow that particular method, it won’t work for your family. And you don’t want to try something and then cave halfway through – that just sends the message that your baby needs to cry for x amount of time and then you’ll give in. Not the best message to send to your baby!
2. Choose the right time to start
You don’t want to start sleep training a week before you go back to work or on vacation…or when you have relatives visiting for a week and you’ll be out and about showing them around. You want a good 2-3 weeks to provide a consistent schedule and environment so your baby can practice what you’re teaching him!
3. Make sure everyone caring for your child is on the same page
If this is a hurdle for you, read my post on 4 tips to get everyone on the same sleep page. It’s pretty impossible to have any long lasting success if your spouse or nanny is undoing all your hard work!
Once you decide to start, check out this post on how to make sleep training more successful. I looked at the successful cases where sleep training couldn’t have gone any better (read: easier, faster) and I boiled it down to 12 reasons why the experience went so well.
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