Teaching Baby To Sleep Through The Night
Have a plan
Many parents make the mistake of deciding to try controlled crying without strategising a plan of attack. It may sound like overkill, but having a strategy before you start a sleep training program is important, because odds are, at 3 a.m., you’ll do whatever it takes to get bub back to sleep, including habits you’re trying to break such as breastfeeding, rocking and using dummies.
When you implement your sleep training program, go to bed at night with a plan of how you will proceed when the baby wakes (i.e. who will attend to the baby and what your strategy is). Write it down if you have to, and consider setting aside a week without going out at night or changing your routine so you can put your plan into action without distractions.
Create a program
There are loads of different programs you can try, but they’re all a variation of the same main idea. Registered nurse and midwife Mandy Gurney suggests this program for parents of babies six months and over. “If you apply the technique properly,” Gurney says, “your child should not cry for much more than an hour.”
- Put baby to bed and tuck them in firmly.
- Wait five minutes before going back to the room. Briefly check on baby with minimal interaction -- don't touch, pick up or cuddle your little one. Simply say, “Mummy/Daddy is here, go to sleep” and leave the room.
- If baby is still crying after 10 minutes, go in and repeat the same process.
- If baby is still crying after 15 minutes, repeat the process.
- Repeat every 10-15 minutes until they fall asleep.
- If baby starts to quieten, wait to see if they are starting to settle to sleep before entering the room -- if you go in at this point, you may disturb the settling process. If the loud crying ramps up again, start your checking process again.
- You will need to do this every time baby wakes in the night, always starting your routine with five minute intervals.
If you are trying to teach your baby to put themselves to sleep, it stands to reason that you need to be consistent. This means deciding on a course of action and sticking to it.
For instance, you may spend an hour following a controlled crying method where you check on your little one every five minutes, then tuck them back in and leave the room. After an hour, you are so exhausted and emotionally drained that you pick your baby up for a cuddle. They immediately stop crying because they feel comforted, but you’re back at square one.
Why? Because you've just taught your baby that if they cry for long enough, you'll eventually come in and cuddle them.
“Don’t give up and be consistent – the first three nights will be gruelling, but after this you will see a considerable improvement,” Gurney explains. “The point of this program is to teach your child to sleep independently. The considerable benefits of sleep to baby -- and you -- will outweigh any temporary discomfort.”
Be calm and confident
Your baby feeds off of your anxiety, so if you are stressed or anxious during the settling process, they will pick up on it. Be calm, confident and clear, and keep in mind that babies are very quick learners! Most parents report that a controlled crying program such as this works within three nights, so be consistent and have faith that it’s not a long term commitment and it will work if you stick with it.