I know that sleep training can be a hot topic with many mammas, especially those more in favor of attachment parenting, but it really doesn't have to be. We have heard so many horror stories about sleep training that many parents are tuned out to it before they even get a chance to look into it. The thought of having to hear your baby cry for an hour is unnerving and just not acceptable, so sleep training goes out the window, along with your sleep and sanity. I am here to tell you that this doesn't have to be the case. Sleep training is not complicated, and definitely doesn't involve hours of crying if done the right way. So let's find out how to do it the right way :)
1. Routine. This really helps your child prepare mentally and physically for nap and bed times. Whether it be, singing a special song, reading a book, or a warm bath, this lets your little one to relax. For regular nap times, I would read a book or story before I laid baby Adrian down, and at bed time, he would get a warm bath with lavender and while my husband read, I would nurse him. We would then put him to sleep. We tried to be as consistent as possible with this, but honestly, life happens and our routine wasn't always perfect. Although I did notice that bed time was pretty much fuss free when we stuck to the routine.
2. Eat, Play, Sleep Schedule. This concept is found in the book On Becoming Baby Wise, which is definitely an excellent book. We used this method in daycare as well, and honestly this will make or break your sleep training. The reason for this is the very fact that you are not feeding a child to sleep. When you nurse or feed a child to sleep every nap time, they get accustomed to needing to eat to fall asleep, which is a difficult habit to break. Although, most babies do have a night nursing before bed, this is different because they will be sleeping for a much longer period of time, and it helps them know that this is bed time.
3. Environment. This is not mandatory, but really helps a lot. Everyone likes a quiet, dark place to sleep. Do your best to make your baby's sleeping area out of the way of household traffic and noise. This will help them to sleep longer and not be interrupted. Another element that really helps eliminate outside and household noise is a good, white noise machine. We used these in our sleeping areas in daycare, and they work very well.
4. The Process . When you are first training your little one how to sleep, you must realize that this is a learned art. It is not something they are born knowing. In the beginning , lay them down with their lovey or blanket, kiss them, and tell them good night. Allow them to cry for three minutes, yes I did time this, because sometimes three minutes seems like an eternity. After that, come in and pat them on the back, and talk or sing softly to them for a couple of minutes. Do your best to not look them in the eyes. I know this sounds harsh, but making eye contact triggers hormones in their body and will make them wake up, defeating your purpose. After he quiets down and begins to relax, leave him alone. Allow him to cry for four or five minutes this time and repeat the same process. Each time, you let them cry longer before you go to comfort them. Remember, you are training him to learn to put himself to sleep. This will take several days to a week to master so have patience with yourself and your little one.
5. The Ten Minute Rule. After sleep training has successfully been established, I use the ten minute rule. If your child is still crying after ten minutes something is wrong. Sometimes, it could be teething, hunger, sickness, gas... the list is endless. Most times when this happens I do my best to find and eliminate the problem. Sometimes, I have no clue what is wrong and just rock him to sleep. I have normally had to do this on the onset of sickness, which have thankfully have been rare. I never ignore this rule though and have always found, sometimes in hindsight, that there was a real issue. I do not want in any way to neglect the real needs of my child by supposing they are just struggling sleeping.
I really recommend you read the book, On Becoming Baby Wise, as it has much more information than this summary. I greatly enjoy the book and have learned tons from it. But like any other book, I take the good and leave the rest. I do not by any means follow it to a T. One of those exceptions would be that during the first three months, for two naps, I would rock my little one to sleep, and the other I would let him sleep on my chest. As he got older, I went down to just one nap. At fifteen months, my child is a great sleeper, and I don't regret that I did this. On the other hand, this is not following the book. I choose to have a balance while sleep training, and enjoy the best of both worlds, I get to sleep :) and have precious bonding moments with my little one