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How to Sleep Train

Updated on May 4, 2014

As you begin your journey into sleep training do some research. Find a pediatrician who will walk you through and support you during the process. For the most part sleep training techniques can be used across the spectrum for most children. But you want a pediatrician available for questions you might have along the way. There is nothing worse than starting a process then quit because you did not have proper support. There may never come a time when you have a question about how you or your baby reacts to the sleep training but if that time does come you want to be able to get your questions answered.

Your pediatrician should be able to walk you through the process from beginning to end. Be sure to also get information from friends, family on how they did sleep training. Remember not everything your mom, auntie or best friend did with the children will work with you and your children. Read, I found a book to be a good resource , Twelve hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin. I used this book as an information gathering resource.

What is the best age to sleep train

Everyone who brings their fist baby home is the recipient of more advice than you know what to do with. When listening to all of those advisors remember to think of what you want your family to look like, you what your days are like now and how you envision them now that you have a new born.

Sleep training is an important part of a child's development. Without proper rest a baby does not have the time to check out of life and restore their energy. This will make them feel overwhelmed and unable to focus later on in life, including school. Without the boundaries in the day children begin to think there is no end to the day, no conclusion and that they have no expectation to look forward to.

What a child should be able to do is figure out they are tired and then remove themselves from the stimulation and get some rest. Teaching a child about boundaries young helps them learn for themselves how to establish boundaries as they grow.

As with most things with children, they need to have examples, they need to be taught how to eat healthy, wait their turn and sleep healthy. Establishing good sleep habits when children are younger in easier than when they get older.

Sleep Training Steps

As with everything, nothing happens over night. If you begin thinking of sleep training your kids before they are born you will have ideas on how to begin and doing it will not seem difficult. If you find yourself with a three year old who still does not sleep through the night and you are exhausted then things will be a little harder when you begin the process. Here are some tips for beginning with infants.

  • Move them to their cribs slowly-while you still have them in their bassinet in your room take them to their bed. Let them sleep in it during nap time. Allow them to see their room while doing diaper changes. DO NOT let their first experience in the crib be the first night you begin sleep training. It will set you and them up for a horrible night. Exposure to their new surrounding is key
  • Before you have them nap in their cribs take their sheet and put it in your bed during the day. This sounds weird but it will give the crib sheets the smell of you, the parents. When they nap in their cribs they will feel safe because they will smell you near them. Be sure to do this when you have them spend their first night in their room as well. Again, having your smell close to them will give them a sense that you are not far away.
  • Make sure there are not any reasons why your child/children cannot begin sleep training. If there are any health reasons, any kind of illness or trauma that the doctor might suggest to wait for a while before beginning.
  • Meet with the pediatrician and go over how to feed the baby before beginning. This is important. That last feeding is important, it allows the baby to be and feel full throughout the night. If your baby continues to wake and drinks the bottle when he/she wakes then it is possible they are not getting enough in that last feeding. As about cereal for the last feeding. Just a small spoonful can help fill the baby. Also, changing the timing between the last feeding and bed time. For instance your pediatrician might initially suggest feeding the baby where they finish the bottle an hour before they are put in the crib. This is done to make sure they do not fall asleep while taking the bottle but it also helps make sure they do not go to bed with milk that has not settled. This works for most babies but if your baby wakes through the night then that means the milk is coming to early before bed time. Try a later time and see if that alleviates that last wake in night.

Sleep Training Toddlers

When the child begins sleep training later than infancy things can be a little harder. Still there are ways to make the road a little less stressful and the end result will mean healthy rest for everyone.

As with young babies I would bring something in the room to help the toddler achieve self soothing then sleep. Initially this could be you. But instead of getting into the bed try sitting on a chair, doing some 'clean up' work while they get adjusted to being in bed. Doing a little quiet work while immediately after putting them into bed allows them to calm down with you still in the room but you are not giving them direct attention. Keep reminding them it is time for rest, time for quiet, the same words over and over again to us are boring but to a child those same words are soothing. It gives them a sense of consistency and they learn the words that go with the time of day and the tired feeling they are having. Later you will hear them tell you, it is time for quiet and resting, I am tired! When your child says those words on their own there is great training going on. After the straitening up has happened and your toddler seems calm but not asleep leave the room. If they come out, calmly recite the words, it is time for sleep, time for quiet and put them back into bed. Try to keep the return to bed short and non confrontational and punitive. Do not threaten them when they become upset or frustrated. Just keep saying those words over and over.

The goal is not to break your toddler, it is to help them learn the skill of staying calm on their own and to get themselves to sleep in a healthy way. If they get up in the middle of the night, the return to bed is quick. Saying the same words just put them back into bed. As they go a few nights of getting up and returning to bed they will remain in bed but you have to be consistent every night. Allowing them to stay in your bed will undo anything you have accomplished in the nights before. As a rule the pediatrician says that it take two nights to create a pattern. As a rule when my kids are sick they can spend a night in bed but not two. This will create a pattern for them and then it is sleep train all over again.

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Bedtime Routines

Keeping a bedtime routine is vital to having a child who learns to put themselves to sleep every night. Find a routine that works for you. Not every one reads at night, takes baths, people find their own way of doing bedtime. Pick something you feel you can do almost every night. This teaches the child, no matter what age you begin training, that when they are going through this routine bedtime is coming. Time for resting. If you are sleep training a baby and do not want to have them in a bath every night, just wash them down with a wash cloth as you change them into their pajamas. No matter what your routine just remember to keep it the same every night. This includes when you travel as well, When you travel one of the nice things is when bedtime comes they know what to expect, it will be in a hotel, grandmas' house, etc but the routine will be the same. They will understand that sleep time is coming. Remember to take things which they use to sleep with. Travel with their pillows, stuffed animals, blankets to help them stay calm as they fall to sleep in a different home.


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