What is sleep training? Here are one mother’s honest thoughts on a sensitive parenting topic:
This weekend my husband and I were watching the Packers and Cowboys game as our daughter was napping. She woke up sometime in the fourth quarter and my husband asked if I was going to bring her down.
We try to limit our daughter’s TV exposure, but my husband is also a big Cowboys fan so he wanted to watch the game. I thought and sat for a second then I decided I would wait a few minutes to go get her.
See our daughter loves her crib. When she wakes up she has no problem rolling around and playing in her crib. This happens when she wakes up in the morning and during nap time.
So how did we do this? Did we use cry it out? Did we co-sleep? How did we get sleep at night without psychologically damaging our children!?
These are questions I get asked A LOT. First, I need to tell you. There is no magic wand to make your baby an amazing sleeper, but I believe parents can influence their children’s sleep habits. We did this with sleep training. Keep reading to find out how!
First, what exactly is sleep training?
We should define what I mean by sleep training. As parents we need sleep and it’s important to help our children develop healthy sleep habits. For our family, sleep training meant having our kids sleep in their cribs with minimal crying.
We chose certain parenting techniques to train our children to love sleep and sleep through the night. We used 6 things to help us reach this goal of having our children sleep in their own rooms.
You must check out the book in #4, it changed the way we handled sleep!
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6 Ways to Get Your Children to Love Their Cribs!
First, you have to be on the same page as your spouse. My husband and I decided together how we would handle bedtime and sleeping. From the beginning we were consistent in our routine and philosophy. You need to have a conversation with your significant other about how you want to handle sleep.
Do you want a strict sleep schedule? Do you want the baby to sleep in a crib? In your bed? You must answer these questions together.
It’s helpful to have all of this worked out with your spouse before the baby comes. Hopefully, it will limit arguments and you will have a plan when sleep issues arise (because they will!). Thankfully my husband and I were on the same page when it came to our baby’s sleep plan.
# 2 Start a Sleep Schedule:
When our daughter was 2-3 months old we started noticing a pattern in her sleep behavior. I used the Baby Connect App on my phone to track how long she was sleeping and what times of day she would nap.
When we noticed the pattern around 3 months we started a loose “schedule.” I truly believe this helped her love her crib. It was predictable and comforting to her even as a baby to know what was expected at bedtime.
Of course there were times she didn’t nap when she was “supposed” to and we tried to be flexible. We can’t predict everything and teething or a new skill such as standing up would change her routine.
Even still we tried to put her down around the same time of day every day.
This helped her establish a routine and helped her love her crib. Some nights she practically dove into her crib. She couldn’t wait!
#3 Leave Them in Their Crib:
This is another big one! Maybe one of the most important tips. I remember when our daughter was a young infant I thought I had to immediately get her the second she woke up from a nap.
At night time she would usually cry to signal she was hungry so I would get to her as soon as possible. However, during the day she would start moving and making noises, but not necessarily cry.
I always felt anxious to get her the moment she woke up. I think the video baby monitor enforced this feeling in me. Though I remember my mom and mother in law telling me I didn’t NEED to get the baby from her crib the second she woke up.
So I decided to give it a try. If I was in the middle of making dinner and it couldn’t wait, I told myself it was okay to finish what I was doing.
Our baby was safe in her crib and I could see on the monitor that she was okay.
This helped change my attitude and our babies! Both our kids learned to wait in their cribs until I got them. They realized their cribs were safe and dare I say “fun.”
Also remember you are establishing boundaries now for years to come. If you get your baby the second she wake up, naturally she will start to expect this. Then as toddlers, this habit may be hard to break!
# 4 To Cry it Out or Not:
This is a huge debate for mothers, should I let my child cry it out or not? This is something you must decide for your family and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about your choice! You know what is best for your baby. Here are a few things we considered:
If the baby is hungry or has a dirty diaper then you can expect him or her to cry. If they are fed, clean, the right temperature but still cranky you need to decide how you want to handle it.
I highly recommend this sleep book to all new mothers.
We read Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success when I was pregnant and we both loved it. It loosely follows the Ferber method.
Both our kids slept through the night by 12 weeks old and I really think part of this was because of the book! It was very easy to follow and implement.
Also note, we always talked to our pediatrician before we started sleep training. I recommend you do the same.
Finally, new research is showing it is okay to let your baby cry himself to sleep. The researchers found sleep training did not stress out babies and the babies actually fell asleep faster compared to the control group.
#5 Bedtime routine:
We have a set bedtime routine for our daughter. I remember starting this when was she 3 or 4 months old. When she was a baby she may not have known what was happening, but eventually I think it helped her understand it was time for bed.
There is a lot of research showing the positive benefits of having a consistent and regular bedtime routine.
As I said before I think our daughter’s love for sleep is a combination of things. My husband and I both love to sleep, so it may be genetic. We also talked about how we would handle our daughter’s napping and sleeping and we were intentional about it.
Lastly, we prayed. We prayed for wisdom, discernment, the courage to make the tough decisions and most importantly we prayed for peaceful restful sleep.
So how did you handle sleep in your house? Do your children love their cribs? Share your journey or questions in the comments below!
Do you have tips for helping your child’s sleep habits?
Share in the comments below!
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Disclosure: There are many opinions on this and you have to decide what is best for your family. In this post I wanted to share our experience and I hope you find it helpful. These are my thoughts as a mother, not medical or professional advice.