When you are the parent of a newborn baby, sometimes you lay awake in amazement, gazing at their face and trying to memorize their features.
And then, sometimes, you fall asleep while changing their diapers.
If there’s a book or an app that is guaranteed to make a baby sleep through the night, perhaps every parent would scramble to get a copy of it. But while there are a lot of books and apps written and made on the topic of sleep training, the truth is you are going to have to do some (make that plenty) of trial and error to see what works for you.
If you are new to sleep training (and even if you aren’t, to be honest), we prepared a list of the basics for you. Here are 9 dos and don’ts on how to put a baby to sleep.
1. Don’t attempt to sleep train a baby younger than 3 months.
Let’s be honest. It’s very tempting to try to sleep train a tiny newborn baby who wakes up multiple times in a single night. But newborn babies are waking up in the night because of a reason, and that reason is hunger. Their little bodies need to be fed and nourished every so often, so let them feed.
It’s best to start sleep training your baby when they are already around 3-4 months old.
2. Do follow a consistent bedtime routine.
We can’t stress hard enough just how important it is to create a bedtime ritual or routine and follow it consistently. Babies learn through repetition, and by following the same routine, they will better understand their daily schedule and what they are supposed to do next.
Aside from that, a soothing nighttime routine makes your baby feel well-rested, which creates a feeling of sleepiness. Set a simple bedtime ritual that is easy to follow, involving a warm bath, baby massage, and feeding.
3. Don’t put your baby down when they have fallen completely asleep.
This is one of the tricky aspects of sleep training. It is tempting to lull your baby to sleep until they are fully asleep, but this is detrimental in helping your baby learn how to self-soothe. The goal should not be putting your baby to sleep alone. Instead, your goal should be to teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own so that even when they wake up in the middle of the night, they can easily fall back asleep.
4. Don’t leave your baby completely alone.
Another thing to keep in mind when sleep training is achieving the perfect balance between presence and involvement. Even if you opt to practice the cry-it-out method, you should never leave your baby completely alone.
It’s okay to let your baby cry, but you should offer comfort and warmth without staying beside them all the time. Leave the room once in awhile but you should periodically check in your baby.
5. Do create a safe zone that is conducive to restful sleep.
Even if you practice a consistent bedtime routine and follow all the tips mentioned above, an important thing that you should never neglect is your baby’s sleep environment. Your baby’s nursery should be comfortable and conducive to sleep.
The temperature of the room should be just right and the crib should be free from clutter. You can choose to get your baby a cotton wearable blanket so that it never gets loose in the night. For lighting, choose a lampshade with muted lighting to keep the area lit but not harshly. It also helps to play white noise or a soothing lullaby from a musical mobile, depending on what your baby prefers.
6. Don’t begin on a workday.
Because sleep training requires your time and your consistency, you need to spend days doing it. And don’t forget: sleep training involves nap times, too, so you should be present for the whole day.
If you are a working parent, refrain from beginning on a workday when you will have to leave early in the morning. This rule also applies if you have older kids who need to be taken to school. It is best to start on a Friday to devote an entire weekend to the task. If you have vacation days, you can use them, too.
7. Do keep track of your baby’s sleeping habits.
Tracking your baby’s sleeping (and pre-sleeping) habits will make the process of sleep training a lot easier! You can keep a log of their sleeping hours to help you identify patterns that you can use to choose the method that works best for you. It’s also a good idea to track their pre-sleeping habits, such as hunger and fussiness, to help you determine the best time to put your baby to bed.
8. Do some trial and error to see what works for you.
There are multiple sleep training methods, not just one! These methods include the interval method, the CIO or cry-it-out method, the chair method, and the fading method. Don’t be discouraged if one approach doesn’t work for you. Different babies have different needs so do some trial and error to see what approach works best for you and your child.
9. Do set realistic expectations and be flexible.
Finally, don’t expect to see results after one night! Babies are new to this world and they have already done plenty of adjusting. It’s only natural for them to take time learning a new behavior, especially if your approach involves leaving your baby periodically.
Also, once your baby has been sleep-trained, don’t be frustrated if it seems like they are regressing. Their sleep habits will change especially if they undergo physical changes like growth spurts. Even adults occasionally have a difficult time sleeping, so don’t quit easily!
Sleep is one of your baby’s most important needs, and it is very beneficial to help your baby learn proper and consistent sleeping habits. By following these 9 sleep training dos and don’ts, we hope you’ll have an easier time teaching your baby!