If you are looking for sleep tips for your new baby, you are not alone! Being a new parent is exhausting! You'll be putting in a lot of the work to make sure that the baby gets the hours of sleep they need and hopefully you can sneak in some shut eye in the process. There are many techniques for helping your baby sleep and depending on your parenting style, you may prefer one over another.
There comes a time when you need to learn how to help your baby to sleep by themselves, and that doesn't have to be grueling. Every baby is different, so what may work for one child, may not work for another. There are tried and tested baby sleep training methods that take no longer than two weeks and can be as fast as a few days. The key is consistency and paying attention to the habits of your baby.
What is baby sleep training?
Sleep training is the practice of getting your baby used to falling asleep without your help and comfort as you lay them down and when they wake in the night for a feed or nappy change. Sleep training is not night weaning, your baby will need to eat overnight for quite some time, but sleep training will help them to fall back asleep easier.
Despite some reservations, research shows sleep training does not cause later attachment issues. At 6 months old, babies should be able to fall asleep or fall back to sleep on their own by self-soothing.
How can I help my baby sleep better?
The first few months of a baby's life is so new — literally — that you can't expect them to have a regular sleep pattern. Experts say that between four and six months is the best age to consider sleep training, which is when they can last six to eight hours without needing a feed. Sleep training can take three to four nights with the "cry it out" or Ferber method, detailed below. A more gradual approach could take longer but give any method at least two weeks before writing it off.
Do babies get better at sleeping?
Baby sleep hours vary from child to child and depend on their age. A newborn may sleep between 14 and 17 hours in one day, while a one-year-old usually sleeps 12 to 15 hours including naps. Newborn babies need to eat often so for at least the four months expect at least 2 overnight feedings.
Over the course of childhood, sleep patterns evolve and can be disrupted for a number of reasons. During the first year, there are many periods of sleep regression when the baby is meeting new milestones. Therefore, think of sleep training as an ongoing undertaking for your child rather than just their early years' development.
Baby sleep tips and methods
Methods to help baby sleep have evolved over decades and there are around five primary methods commonly cited. All of the methods require your child be in a safe environment by laying them on their back in a cot free of hazards, including toys and pillows. These measures will give you peace of mind too while you leave them alone to fall asleep by themselves.
The Ferber method is also known as graduated extinction. This method dictates you leave the baby to cry for a set time before checking on them. The period you leave them should get longer each sleep until eventually, they learn to self-soothe themselves to dreamland. This is not recommended for young babies.
The chair method is recommended for older babies. It involves sitting in a chair next to the crib until they fall asleep. Avoid picking them up but place a reassuring hand on them if they wake up. Each night, move the chair further away toward the door. If they get upset when you move it further away, put it back to the last position and try again. Not all children respond to this method and it might be upsetting for the child if they wake up expecting you to be there after you leave.
Bedtime fading method
If your baby is consistently having trouble sleeping, their sleep cycle may not align with what you want it to be. The bedtime fading method supports gradually amending their bedtime until it is where you want it. First, observe your baby for signs of tiredness, such as yawning, eye rubbing or discomfort and then, put them to bed. If they wake up, start again and each night move the bedtime 15 minutes ahead.
Pick up, put down method
The pick up put down method is the opposite of cry it out. Wait till your baby is drowsy and put them down to sleep, waiting until they settle. Then, if they fuss, pick them up, put them down again when they are calm, and try again. Avoid feeding them to sleep, but instead, tap their back or try "shhh" sounds and whispering. This method tends to take longer than, say, the Ferber or cry it out method but is a less harsh way of getting baby to sleep.
How to make sleep training work
Whichever method you choose to try, its success depends on consistency. Try and establish a routine, including a bedtime ritual, such as a bath, bedtime song to help your child recognize when it's time to sleep. A warm soothing bottle heated with The Baby's Brew before bed can help relax your baby and a full tummy can help them fall asleep. Watch for your baby's sleepy cues and make sure to lay your baby down when they are still awake.
All of these tips work for naps too. Making sure to establish a routine for naps as well as bedtime will help your baby sleep calmly and comfortably. Consistency is absolutely necessary in whatever decisions you make as a parent.
Choose whatever works best for your family and parenting style. Not every child will need the same and not every family will use the same techniques. Sleep training isn’t for every family. Some families co-sleep and do not have the baby in a crib, others sleep train as early as 3 months. The awesome thing about having your own family is that you get to decide exactly how you want to raise your child.
The first night that they sleep through the night is a glorious night, but do what works best for you and your family. They will sleep through the night eventually no matter which technique you decide to try. But the bottom line is to be consistent, and know that sleep training gets easier and evolves as your infant turns into a toddler, young child and eventually a teen when their sleep patterns will probably be the least of your worries.
Q: What is baby sleep training?
A: Sleep training is the practice of getting your baby used to falling asleep without your help. By learning the skill of self soothing, the baby is better equipped to fall back asleep on their own after waking.
Q: What age can you start sleep training your baby?
A: Typically most experts recommend starting sleep training between 4 and 6 months of age. Whichever method you choose, remember that consistency and routine is key for success.
Q: How many hours of sleep should a baby get?
A: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleep length can vary by the age of your baby. Newborn to 3 month old babies typically sleep somewhere between 14 and 17 hours in a 24 hour period. Four months to a year old babies tend to sleep between 12 and 16 hours. As they get older, most of the sleep length will be overnight with fewer naps.
Q: When do babies start sleeping through the night?
A: Many babies are able to sleep through the night at around 6 months old. Some babies will take longer to reach this milestone, but the experts suggest that you can begin sleep training around 6 months.
Written by: Kristen Bickel
Kristen is a mom of 4 and an employee at The Baby’s Brew.