Whenever anyone congratulates you on having a child, they really mean something else: Poor thing, you’ll never sleep again! This isn’t because you won’t want to – goodness, no! It’s because of a child’s tendency to view sleep as an option they’d rather not take. They’ll scream. They’ll cry. They’ll fuss. And you’ll be left wondering: how mean is it – really? – to put a bark collar on a human being?
Sleeping and babies might go together like peanut butter and electronics, but it is possible to get some parental shuteye by using these baby sleep training methods:
Know That Babies Will Wake Up
Before you learn how to make your baby go to sleep, remember that they don’t sleep like adults (or bigger kids, for that matter). They have needs that don’t cease when the sun sets: they need to be fed, changed, and comforted. In the beginning, these needs are constant, but they taper off around the age of six months or so.
1. Cry out Versus Comfort
If your child refuses to sleep even after they have a few months of living under their belts, there are a few options. One of these is the “cry it out” process. For this, you place your baby in their crib and let them cry themselves to sleep. It’s effective because babies learn two things: how to self soothe and that throwing a tantrum isn’t helpful.
It has a downfall, of course: as your baby cries its eyes out, you’ll want to pull your hair out. In other words, it’s stressful. For this reason, some parents simply can’t do it (and that’s okay!).
A modified version of this allows you to let your child cry it out for an increasingly longer period each night: five minutes the first night, ten minutes the second, fifteen the third (and so on). But, when you enter your child’s room, you shouldn’t comfort them; instead, only enter to comfort yourself by making sure your child is okay. Picking them up – rocking them, cooing at them, promising them a brand new car on their sixteenth birthday – defeats the purpose.
2. Bedtime Fading
Another option is Bedtime Fading, a process where you teach your child how to fall asleep on their own. You preface bedtime with a good routine – maybe a bath, a book, a song and dance number – and instill in your child the belief that sleeping is fun (us adults think so!). Initially, start out by setting bedtime later than usual (so your baby will be particularly tired). Then move the bedtime up each night until you’ve reached your desired time, ultimately allowing your child to put themselves to sleep even when they aren’t all that drowsy.
3. Scheduled Awakenings
The final method you can use to get your child to sleep is to purposely wake your child up via Scheduled Awakenings. Yes, waking a sleeping child is like poking a grizzly bear while you’re covered in salmon, but by manipulating when your child wakes up, you have better control over helping them get back to sleep. These awakenings eventually phase out, resulting in that glorious moment where your child actually sleeps through the night.
When all is said and done, there are lots of ways to get your child to sleep (and consulting with a doctor is always an option). But doing nothing is dangerous – sleepless parents have much more stress than those who snooze. So, don’t be afraid to get creative. And, remember, we all love our kids. But we love them even more when they’re fast asleep.