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Baby sleep training – everything you need to know!

As a new parent, you may find that your baby prefers specific ways of being put to sleep. It can be rocking your baby to sleep, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, cuddles or more. 

According to sleep experts from What To Expect, sleep training is an option if your little one reaches four months old. Sleep training can teach your baby how to self-soothe, fall asleep or fall back to sleep on their own.  

Some parents dread sleep training, but expert’s claim it can be accomplished quickly with few tears. It is normal to be worried. You may question if your baby is old enough, which techniques are the best and how long until you can have a good night’s rest again. 

What is sleep training?

Sleep training is teaching your baby how to fall asleep without your help. Ideally, sleep training means putting your baby into bed awake and letting them drift off to sleep without rocking, swaying, cuddling, nursing or any other sleeping methods you have tried. 

With sleep training, your baby can fall asleep again after waking up during the night. Sleep training and night weaning don’t always happen at the same time. When you teach your baby how to sleep, you can still feed them once or twice during the night. It does depend on their age, but this can be discussed with your paediatrician. They can advise when to slow down on night-time feeds. 

Sleep training does not necessarily consist of shutting the door after putting your baby to bed and letting them cry themselves to sleep. You can decide on the amount of crying your baby does before stepping in with a soothing song or other comforting options. 

It is usual for parents to worry that some sleeping training methods may harm their baby’s health create behavioural problems down the line. Many experts assure parents that sleep training is safe, healthy and imperative for your baby’s development.  

When can sleep training begin?

Experts recommend starting sleep training when your baby is around four months old. Your baby has longer sleeping cycles at that age, and their circadian rhythm (the hormone cycle that controls our sleep-wake processes) begins to produce. 

Sleep training can start earlier or later than four months old, depending on your baby. If you feel uncertain about when to start sleep training, consult your paediatrician for advice. 

Common sleep training methods

Ferber Method (also known as the ‘check and console’ method)

This particular method has variations. The general principle is to check on your baby at preset intervals, but you cannot feed or rock them to sleep while doing so. 

Continue with your and your baby’s regular bedtime routine. Once that is complete, place your baby in their cot. Proceed to leave the room and wait outside the door for a certain amount of time of your choice. After the time passes, go back into the room and reassure your baby by saying things like: “Mommy loves you.” A gentle touch or pat is also acceptable. 

Keep leaving and checking on your baby, but increase the timeframe between visits until you reach 10 to 15 minutes and then continue doing this until they fall asleep. When they wake up, repeat the ‘check-and-console’. This method can start to work after a week, but you should see progress after the first couple of nights. 

Some experts feel this method is much more appropriate for babies who are seven months and older because younger babies may feel like they have been abandoned. 

Extinction (also known as ‘cry it out)

Extinction is the name of this method because you want to extinguish your baby’s crying at night by not responding to it. It is similar to the Ferber Method, but you don’t check on them throughout the night unless a feed is needed. Basically, after your usual bedtime routine, you put your baby in their cot, say goodnight walk out of the room. 

Some experts suggest leaving your baby – crying or not – until the following day unless your baby needs to be fed. The first night is the toughest because your baby may cry every hour. 

Other experts encourage waiting for one or two wake-ups before re-entering the room. If your baby wakes up after midnight, comfort them for a few minutes and leave again. 

Chair Method

Also known as a very gradual sleep-training method, the chair method requires discipline. Place your baby in their cot and sit in a chair next to them. Once your baby falls asleep, then leave the room. When they wake up, sit in the chair again until they fall asleep. Move the chair further away from the cot every night until you sit outside the room. 

Stay strong

Sleep training can take more of a toll on you than your baby. Exhausted new parents and sleep consultants swear by these methods. All the best!

Contact Affinity Health

Contact your doctor before you change your baby’s daily routine.

Find your preferred Affinity Health physician on the network. 

Finding your nearest GP is as easy as going to our website and clicking on the Find a Doctor tab. You can find this tab under client resources. Now, type in your city or town. 

Affinity Health members can contact us on 0861 11 00 33 to consult with an Affinity Health primary healthcare consultant.


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