Indians believe in sharing beds with their infants and toddlers. This strengthens the bond between parents and children. It is a good thing for the child's overall development. But when will the child start to sleep unassisted? When should parents start to separate themselves from their children? Will their child be able to sleep on their own? Will they feel neglected by their parents? How long will it take for them to adapt to new ways?
A child needs to be introduced to all the activities like walking, eating, playing independently, and even potty training. But have you heard of sleep training? We will discuss the whats, whys, whens, and hows of sleep training your child.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training means allowing your baby to fall asleep on its own. It can be at the beginning of sleep or in the middle of the night. The idea is to let the child learn to self-soothe.
Some infants can fall asleep while just laying on the bed, while others need a bit of rocking in the cradle. Maybe you need to sing them lullabies or pat them on the chest. Any of these methods can put your child to sleep through the night. With every child, the technique differs. You usually don't need to sleep train your child unless he or she is waking up often in the night or is being cranky due to a lack of sleep.
Why Should you Sleep Train your Child?
A new mother needs adequate sleep to regain her energy. The best practice in early baby days is to 'sleep when the baby is sleeping.' It is endorsed by doctors as well as mothers. That is mostly because the baby's sleep routine is not set up yet. It takes time for the baby to get acquainted with the surroundings.
In India co-sleeping is a common practice. Hence, the first few months are very comfortable for both mommy and baby. The real concern begins when the child starts playing and recognizing the mother's touch. Consequently, every time the mother vacates the bed, the child will notice.
The baby senses the mother's touch even in sleep. Continuous breakage in the sleep cycle will cause the baby to cry more often than play. Sleep is important for your child's development. A child should get enough sleep for the brain to develop emotionally, physically, and mentally. If the baby can sleep independently or with minimal assistance from the parent, he or she will be able to have a peaceful mind at a very young age.
When Can you Start Sleep Training your Child?
For the initial days,you can try many sleep techniques. Sleep training can be be done as soon as the baby is 6 or 8 months old. Of course, there is no upper limit to sleep training. If you feel like your child needs you by their side, you can start sleep coaching a little later. You can opt to sleep train them when they are old enough to acknowledge their own emotions. If they are easily scared in darkness or when alone, you should first focus on overcoming their phobia.
Night terrors and nightmares are also troublesome while sleep training. If your kid often has nightmares they would just wake up from sleep. Get familiar with their presence and go back to sleep. Night terrors, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated. The child starts screaming and crying in their sleep, unaware of the present scenario. What causes night terrors is yet debated among many universities and pedestrians. Sleep training can help reduce night terrors. When you sleep train the kid, he or she will always be aware of what to expect when they open their eyes. They start throwing tantrums when they find an unfamiliar place on waking up.
Not getting enough shut-eye is harmful to all age groups. Imagine how difficult it is for kids to cope without sleep.
How do you Sleep Train your Child?
Every child is different, every parent is different. Some families are not ready for the baby to stay away from them. If you wish to keep the baby around you and sleep train them at the same time, you can add a small bed in your bedroom. Make him or her sleep on their bed.
Techniques like cry-it-out and the Ferber method are most commonly followed.
You should put your child to sleep at their regular time. Later you should slowly move away from them. When the child wakes up in the middle of the night, they would start crying as they don't find you by their side. As per the cry-it-out method, you should allow your kid to cry back to sleep. Initially, you should respond to their call-out within 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually you can extend the time and let your baby cry for an extended time until they fall back asleep on their own.
Whereas the Ferber method suggests soothing your child now and then. To begin with, you should put your baby in the crib when he or she is drowsy but not completely asleep. Soothe them or pat them to sleep. Leave the room, and visit again after a few minutes. The method suggests various time frames to visit and soothe the baby but asks to avoid lingering around the crib. The fundamental aspect here is to let your child be comfortable with you not being around all the time.
For Cry-it-out, certain variations are recommended by different doctors. But there are certain essential things involved in all techniques:
- Switching Off the lights or lowering the brightness
- Playing lullaby music or white music
- Bathing the child before sleep
- Reading them bedtime stories.
- Avoid gadgets just before sleep.
- Keep their favorite toy where they can fetch it easily.
Some other points to consider while sleep training is to check if your child is teething or sick? Is the room really cold or extremely hot? Is their diaper dirty? If they wet their bed frequently, invest in quick dry sheets? How long before sleep did you feed the child? In any of the above scenarios, the baby will feel disappointed and neglected. Spend enough time with the baby during the day, so that they don't crave your attention at night.
Lastly, consistency is the key. Sleep training for an 8-month-old takes 15 days maximum. As your child gets older, the time, effort, and patience required to train them increases. It is difficult but achievable, you can train your child to sleep independently even if they are 5 years old.