As all new parents know, sleep is an important part of the baby’s, as well as your own, health and well-being. Just like good nutrition, it’s important to start healthy sleeping habits early in your baby’s life. In order to make sure that you and your baby are both getting enough sleep, you need to establish a regular sleep routine and schedule for your baby. The first step is maintaining a consistent bedtime and developing a soothing and calm bedtime routine with your baby. Both the National Sleep Foundation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend putting your baby down when she is drifting off to sleep but not yet fully asleep, as this can upset the baby if she wakes up later to find that you are no longer with her. Karen Kesti, a nurse and San Francisco based baby sleep specialist insists on the importance of babies forming a positive association with sleep and the pleasant bedtime routine that precedes it. The ideal environment for a baby to sleep in is dark and calm, with a soothing bedtime routine that lasts about twenty minutes.
You may have heard about some of the controversy surrounding different methods of sleep training and getting your baby back to sleep during the night. One such method is the cry it out method, in which the baby is left to cry and soothe herself back to sleep, without your intervention. The other extreme is to pick your baby up each time she cries. All of the experts we spoke with recommended a more moderate approach, in between these two extremes. Noted San Francisco baby consultant and sleep specialist Marsha Podd is an advocate of this middle of the road approach and recommends an approach that she calls, “controlled crying.” It involves letting your baby cry for a few minutes so that she can learn to soothe herself back to sleep rather than relying on you, but not letting her cry endlessly.
According to Podd, you can begin sleep training when your baby is about twelve pounds, or around four months old. Let her cry for a few minutes and see if she is able to soothe herself back to sleep. If so, then you can increase the time you will let her cry by a few minutes each night and within a few weeks she will be able to soothe herself back to sleep without crying out for you if she wakes during the night. Of course, if her crying intensifies or continues for extended periods of time, it is important to make sure that your baby is not sick or feeling unwell. The successful adoption of a moderate routine of encouraging your baby to soothe herself back to sleep will lead to a happy, alert, and well rested baby during the daytime. Podd has helped many families over the years and believes that following this method will also have lasting positive effects on the baby as she grows up and benefits from having learned the important life skills of self-regulation and frustration tolerance early on.
While there are numerous differing opinions on sleep training, and some controversial, it is important to remember that there is no single one right answer. You have to choose a sleep training method that suits the needs and temperament of your baby and family best. Regardless of which sleep training approach you ultimately pursue, all our experts agree that consistency is the key. You must stay consistent with naptimes, bedtimes, the bedtime routine, and how you respond to cries during the night.
Should you find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated by sleep training and in need of some professional help, sleep consultants can be found all over the country. They will come to your home for a private consultation and help you and your baby establish a healthy sleep routine and good habits.