Sleep training is a rather complicated and touchy subject. Let’s just be honest, it is. It is only natural for you to have a number of questions regarding really understanding what sleep training really is but you’re probably questioning if now is the time to start sleep training your infant?
Like everything else that you’ll experience in your parenting journey, there isn’t a straightforward reply to your question, unfortunately. Rather, the closest you can get to an answer is: it depends.
That’s right your decision if now is the time for sleep training depends on you, your baby, and even your pediatrician. To get a better understanding of all the factors at play, keep reading.
SIGN 1: You Are Ready
As a parent, it can be tough to decide to sleep train your little one. This is largely due to the fact that there is quite a bit of controversy around this practice, especially when it comes to hearing your friends’ opinions and what is posted on Facebook. So, it’s not your fault that it takes you a bit of time to gather all the information and decide whether or not this is the right thing for you and your little one.
Let’s set the record straight. Sleep Training is about providing your baby the opportunity to learn how to fall asleep independently (and ultimately stay asleep).
Learning how to fall asleep independent plus age-appropriate naps and bedtimes are the secret sauce to have an amazing sleeper.
Sleep Training is NOT about “crying it out”. And, let’s be honest, crying it out is what gives sleep training a bad rap.
However, once you have made your decision that now is the time, you can be sure that it is the right one. It is at this point that you may be able to begin the sleep training. This is mostly because you will be in the right mindset to do so.
SIGN 2: You Can’t Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Sleep deprivation can take a serious toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. This is something you may have noticed after skimping on your slumber. You may be more irritable, lacking in energy, and completely spaced out. (Have you ever left your keys in your fridge, I have!)
Now, it can be tempting to think that things will get better and that your little one will start sleeping normally again. However, new research shows that the average parent faces up to six years of sleep deprivation (and we don’t have that time to be sleep-deprived).
If you need any more proof that you aren’t getting enough shut-eye, monitor your sleep stages with a suitable device from ouraring.com. You will then be able to see just how often your own sleep cycle is being thrown off. If you don’t have a sleep tracker – no worries – you’ll know when you’re not getting enough sleep. You’ll know!
SIGN 3: You Have Resorted to Doing Something Dangerous
Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is why you may have found yourself sharing a bed or co-sleeping with your little one. If you have found that this is the only way you and your baby can get some shut-eye, then sleep training may be definitely in order.
Understand, co-sleeping can be quite dangerous. Sharing a bed with an infant (especially when not safely) can increase the risk of SIDS. There is also the potential for sleeping accidents to occur. With toddlers, co-sleeping can lead to prolonged, bad sleeping habits.
So, if this is a routine you have been forced into, it is time to change things up. By sleep training your little one, you will be teaching her how to fall asleep on their own all while creating a sleep environment conducive to sleep.
If you’re co-sleeping or bedsharing right now… there is no judgment on why things got to the place where they are. But accepting that things have to get safer makes it easier for you to know it’s time.
SIGN 4: Your Baby is Using You As a Pacifier
Another sign that it may be time for you to let the sleep training begin is if your baby is using you as a pacifier ALL. NIGHT. LONG. This may sound odd, but it is something that many moms have faced. So, what does this look like?
Well, one way to know if this is happening to you is if your baby keeps waking up in the night and demanding to feed. For some little ones, this occurs once a night. Others, however, may rouse themselves several times.
Of course, not all babies nurse during these times. Instead, they may just be looking for your breast for comfort. Every time this happens though, both they and you are losing out on sleep. Therefore, if this is a behavior that you have noticed, it means that your baby is stuck in a non-sleeping rut.
How do you know if your baby is comfort nursing?
It’s often perplexing to know if your baby is genuinely eating or not. A simple way is to focus on the suck/swallow rhythm of your baby when you know he is consuming milk. It should go suck/swallow/suck/swallow pretty rhythmically.
Once your baby is comfort nursing, you should hear suck/suck/suck/swallow or a rhythm that doesn’t sound all that much of a pattern at all.
Or, you may feel little sucks versus active sucking while feeding.
Even if your baby isn’t using you as a human pacifier, there are many other sleep associations that your baby has (i.e., bouncing rocking, motion, etc.). If this is the case, then it’s time to break the sleep associations to teach your baby independent skills. Now, you know.
SIGN 5: Your Baby Takes a Long Time to Fall Asleep and Then Wakes Up Again
An additional indicator that sleep training is a must is if your baby appears to have picked up some bad sleeping habits.
For instance, do you notice that your baby takes the longest time to fall asleep? Perhaps you have to sit by them for an hour, possibly more before their eyes begin to close.
Of course, the second you try to leave the room, they wake back up again.
Or, just a few minutes later, they are crying to be picked up.
As you most likely experience, the minute you leave the room, you’re spending 30 additional minutes to get your baby down to sleep, finally.
Having bad sleep habits is the precursor for not having enough sleep, so I guess that you may experience short naps, and your baby is probably up all night. A goal is to not only focus on the skills but also making sure your baby is well-rested by getting the right amount of sleep and naps for his age.
You know that teaching your baby independent skills will help your baby sleep better, resulting in better growth and development.
SIGN 6: You Have the All Clear from Your Pediatrician
It is important to remember that sleep training isn’t right for all babies – or parents. This is why it is a good idea first to get the go-ahead from your pediatrician. A trusted medical advisor will be in a much better position to tell you that your baby is ready.
For instance, most pediatricians will talk to you about sleep fragmentation states. See, it takes a while before your infant’s internal clock can sync with that of the 24-hr clock. Until then, his or her sleep will be somewhat disjointed. Your doctor will advise you against sleep training at this point.
They will probably ask you to wait until your little one is around 4 to 6 months old. (Some doctors even suggest earlier, but I recommend you hold out until four months).
Then there is also the fact that most doctors only advise sleep training for healthy babies.
Your pediatrician will need to do a thorough check-up of your little one before deciding if this is the right time for sleep training or not. This means that your little one must be feeding well, be of a healthy weight, and not exhibit any health issues.
Here’s a note to those that get a lot of parenting advice from the internet – nobody should give you medical advice online, so it’s a good idea to get a good gut check from someone knowledgeable.
So, there you have it – everything you need to know about when to start sleep training and when you’re ready to know. Although this guide may not provide you with a direct answer, it will make it easier to determine which schedule is right for you and your baby.
If you want to learn more about sleep training, make sure that you check out my article: Sleep Training Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide