A sound sleep is one thing that tops the minds of parents with a newborn. Erratic sleep patterns, extended hours of being awake, coupled with intermittent sessions of feeding and changing lead to fatigue and exhaustion. You try many different methods to put your little one to bed, take the advice of older people at home, skim through baby-help websites and magazines, only to realize that nothing fits the bill. And suddenly, a friend of yours introduces you to the concept sleep training your baby – a practice that you could try out by yourself, or get a baby sleep coach to develop for your little one. When sleep training newborn, here are some practical tips that can be of help.
• Different practitioners advocate different methods to put your baby to sleep. Some of them propagate ‘cry it out’, while some others vouch for the ‘no tears’ method. The former is a tactic where babies apparently learn to soothe themselves after crying out till they fall asleep. This may be difficult for parents to especially, especially if the child wails for a longer time. The latter is a more comfortable option if you don’t like to let your little ones be in tears. When opting to sleep train your baby, opt for a method that works for both you and your newborn. A philosophy clash with your consultant or coach can be detrimental to the child and the parents.
• The nap schedule of your newborn has a role to play in how long and how well he/she sleeps during the night. A consistent nap routine during daytime helps establish and regulate that at nighttime. Erratic patterns followed during the day can have an adverse impact on your child’s rest period in the night.
• Establish an early bedtime. A good way to develop sleeping habits is by putting your little one to bed early. Most coaches advocate a time between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., as babies start feeling tired around this time, and can catch sleep faster. Keeping them awake for longer can make them more tired, and in turn make it difficult for them to press the snooze button. Many experts also say that a baby who goes to bed earlier sleeps for longer. Also, make sure to put your baby to sleep around the same time every day, as this helps your newborn’s body get accustomed to a clock or pattern. If your child has a late sleep schedule, advance it in steps of 10 or 15 minutes every day, till he/she falls into a routine. Over time, you would also be able to determine the time that best suits your baby for a good sleep.
• Put a bedtime routine in place and stick to it. The same activities when done day after day helps the baby and his/her body understand that it is time to go to bed, and your child would find it easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep too. This could be a single activity, or a series of them like a bath, followed by cuddling, and a soothing lullaby, at the same time every night.
• Some sleep consultants also advocate developing keywords to signal to your baby that it is bedtime. It could be a shushing sound or a simple phrase like “It’s sleepy time baby.” Repeating this sound or phrase while putting your child to sleep can help him/her associate it with bedtime.
• The bedtime environment too has an important role to play in how your child sleeps at night. Create an environment that is tailored to your baby’s needs. Some newborn find soft music soothing, while some others like a quiet environment. Also make sure that their clothes and the sheets are warm and cozy, but not chafing or binding. Many babies also sleep better when swaddled. However, make sure you don’t go overboard by overdressing your child or over warming the room.
• Babies make many different sounds when they are asleep, but not all of them need to be responded to. As a parent, you need to learn to differentiate these sounds from a real cry. If you are not sure, it is fine to wait for a minute before you lift or pat your baby, lest you wake up a sleeping child.
Sleep training your newborn can be effective when done right, and when followed for a longer period of time, till the routine is established.