I think most parents have been frustrated at some point in time when it comes to baby sleep. There are many sleep-training methods out there. Choosing “the best” sleep-training method (and following through on it!) can be confusing. I know when I was sleep-training Madi – implementing the sleep-training techniques turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. For all the parents out there who are thinking of baby sleep training, here are some tips before you start out:
Do your research and see a physician before you start sleep-training:
- Discuss with your child’s primary care provider to confirm that it is safe to sleep-train your child. Your doctor will want to confirm that your child does not have any medical conditions that may prevent your child from being sleep trained.
- Research how you plan to sleep-train your child. There are many sleep-training methods out there, and choosing the best option for you is an individual choice.
- Know that there is much information on the internet about the horrors of baby sleep training. To date there is no medical data that shows sleep-training causes attachment disorders, ADHD, depression, or anxiety.
Plan out the best time to start sleep-training
- Make sure you implement a bedtime routine nightly.
- Do not start baby sleep training before your child is 4 months old. But do implement a good bedtime routine before you start sleep-training.
- Know what the normal amount of sleep time your baby needs for their age.
- Have a plan and mutual goals with your partner about sleep-training.
Safety of your infant is always a priority
- Make sure they are comfortable and safe in their crib before leaving them alone in their room.
All sleep-training methods require periodic checks on your baby.
- There is no recommended “optimal” period of time between checks.
- The amount of time between checks is determined by your personal tolerance for your child crying and your child’s temperament.
- When in doubt, listen to your instincts. If you are worried about your child, attend to them as you need.
The goal of sleep-training is to help your child fall asleep more independently, and wake up less throughout the night.
- The goal of sleep-training is to allow your child to fall asleep independently. A well-rested baby is a happier baby. Over time, your baby will learn skills to self-soothe at night.
- Sleep-training teaches your baby skills they will use throughout their childhood as their sleep habits and environments may change with age.
Expect the first few days of baby sleep training to be challenging
- Your child will likely be aware that something is different about their bedtime routine. Expect your little one to protest this change, and know their behaviour will likely escalate at the beginning of sleep-training.
Sleep-training will take some persistence and patience
- Baby will likely cry less and less with each passing night.
- When sleep-training, your baby will likely take less and less time to fall asleep with each passing night.
What if one method of sleep-training didn’t work?
- There are many methods of sleep-training! What works for one child might not work for another.
- If a particular method seems to cause your baby a lot of distress or just isn’t working, consider trying a different method after taking a short break.
Know that baby sleep changes throughout the lifetime. Your baby’s sleep needs will decrease over time. When it does, you might experience worsening of their night or day time sleep. For this, I have created this guide for transitioning your toddler from 2 naps to 1.
This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Suzanne Black, MD, BSc.