If you are a parent, then you’ve heard the phrase sleep training multiple times already. Maybe you are looking for ideas to get your baby to sleep through the night so you can get some sleep. Or maybe you’ve gotten some unsolicited advice on how you need to sleep train your bundle that kicks all night.
There’s a lot of information available online on different methods to sleep train your baby. No hard and fast rule works. It all depends on your baby and you and what you’re comfortable with.
Co-sleeping vs Sleep Training
The most common sleep-training method you’d have heard about is the cry-it-out method. It means that once you’ve fed and changed your baby, you put them in their cot and only go back to feed, change the diaper, or once the sleep time is over.
We tried this for a short while. I felt horrible about letting my son cry his tiny lungs out. Moreover, it didn’t work for long. Sleep regression around growth spurts are standard, so we’d be back to square one soon enough. It wasn’t worth the pain.
There are other gentler ways of getting your baby to sleep. What worked for us was a mix of rocking him back to sleep if he woke before we slept, then co-sleeping if he woke after we had gone to bed.
Co sleeping benefits the baby and you, and all of us get a whole night’s sleep. My husband and I are careful sleepers, so it was safe for our baby to sleep between us. A co sleeping cot comes in handy if you’re worried about your baby getting squished or there’s not enough space on your bed.
I had a poster in my son’s room that reminded me during difficult days that soon he will be doing things on his own, so treasure this time together and hold him a little longer. Sure enough, he baulks at the idea of us carrying him now.
When Can Kids Sleep on their Own
It depends on the child. My husband’s nieces started sleeping through the night as babies. My nephew would wake up, but his parents made sure to get him to sleep in his room, so he never got used to co-sleeping. He started sleeping on his own around the time he was two. Our son used to come to our bed in the middle of the night. It is only recently (he’ll turn six next month) he’s agreed, by way of discussions and bribes, to sleep in his room the entire night. I know of much older kids who continue to co-sleep with their parents. So to each their own.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Since he was about four or five months, we’ve established a bedtime routine for our son. Dinner by 7 pm, a bit of playtime, then a bath and book before going to his own bed. Even though he used to wake multiple times when he was a baby, we’d stay in the room with him till he fell back asleep or get him to our bed to co sleep. Once he started walking, he’d just climb down from his bed and join us in ours on his own. That way, he knew the queues for when bedtime starts and ends.
This routine has stayed more or less the same after six years. The number of times he wakes up has reduced, and now finally, he doesn’t come to our bed and goes back to sleep if he’s woken in the night to use the toilet.
Our sleep progression went something like this:
Newborn to about a year: Rocking him to sleep every time he woke up then co-sleeping
1 to 4 years: sitting next to him till he fell asleep. Then he would join us in our bed when he woke up at night.
4 to 5 years: Saying goodnight and letting him fall asleep on his own. Then he’d come to our bed when he woke up at night.
6 years: Sleeping on his own after we read together and spend some time catching up on our days.
How much Sleep does a Child need
According to the Sleep Foundation, newborns and infants need at least 14 hours of sleep, and toddlers up to teenagers need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day.
Our son sleeps by 8 pm and wakes around 630 am. If he gets late getting to bed and still wakes on time, we make sure he naps in the day or sleeps early the next day. He cannot understand his irritability is due to tiredness or inadequate sleep, so it’s up to us to enforce a stricter bedtime. But we also need to be flexible at times.
If we have planned something for the evening, and he hasn’t had a chance to nap in the day, we let him participate till he says he’s ready for bed. These times are not frequent, and I feel it helps keep him adaptable to different situations instead of being rigid with routines.
Here’s the quote I try to remember on difficult days with my son. Hope it reminds you to take it easy today.