It does not take an expert to know that experiencing a good night's rest consistently can help people be happier and healthier. The same is true for new born babies and children. Ask any young parent the difference a good night of sleep verses a bad night of sleep has on their childen. Almost without exception, they will tell you it makes all the difference. You may be asking yourself, how can I help my child have a good night's rest? The answer... Sleep training.
Sleep training is exactly what it sounds like. It is training your child to sleep. This includes following a sleep schedule and being able to fall asleep on their own. There are several different techniques to sleep train your child. These techniques fall into two different methods know as the cry it out method, and no tears method. We will examine these two different methods and the respective benefits and downsides to each.
Cry It Out Method
The cry it out method of sleep training can be defined as any technique of sleep training that "says it's okay to let a baby cry for a specified period of time (often a very short period of time) before offering comfort." Of the many techniques in the cry it out method, by far the most commonly know is the Ferber Method. Named after Dr. Richard Ferber, this approach includes four steps to sleep training your child.
The first step includes creating a bedtime routine. For example, each night before putting your baby to sleep, the routine might include a bath, then reading a book, having a bottle, and then putting the baby to bed. Routines are said to help the baby prepare each night for sleep. As your child grows accustomed to this routine, he or she will become more comfortable going to sleep.
The second step is very simple. At the desired bedtime, you put your baby in the bed and leave the room. This can be hard as the first few times you do this, your baby is sure to cry. This is why these types of techniques are known as cry it out. This method will undoubtedly have some tears.
The third step includes checking on your child periodically. Say you put you child down for sleep at 7:30 P.M. and he or she is crying, after three minutes, check on your child. Assure them that you are there and are not abandoning them. Do not pick up your baby. You will continue to check on your child through increasing the time between checks. The next wait may be five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, and so on. Once your baby is asleep you stop doing these checks.
The Final step is to do this each night until your child starts to fall asleep with less frequent and fewer checks. There are varying degrees of success. The benefit of this type of sleep training is that inevitably your child learns to self soothe and fall asleep on their own. The downside is that it can be hard to let your child "cry it out."
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No Tears Method
Methods that apply a no tears mentality are typically for those who for one reason or another are uncomfortable with a cry it out approach. These reasons may include, feeling as though leaving your child may cause them to lose trust in you, or feeling guilty having your baby cry when it may not be necessary.
Similar to the Ferber method, the no tears method includes a solid bedtime routine. Highly recommended in that routine is a bath and then nursing your child to sleep. Then when they are asleep you place them in their bed and leave. If they awake, you either rock or pat them back to sleep.
The benefits of this method include the bonding that you will have with your child, and not dealing with any guilt associated with cry it out methods. The main potential downside to this type of sleep training is that you may have a child that may have a hard time falling asleep on their own well into their toddler years.
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There are many ways to help sleep train your child. No matter which method you use, sleep training is worth doing. A well rested baby does not just mean a happy baby, it means well rested parents.