Getting a baby to sleep often presents a major parenting concern. Babies don’t naturally take to sleeping through the night and most dads and moms have to work at ‘teaching’ their infant to sleep by setting up a sleep schedule for them.
There is no one way to do this however and various specialists have proposed different approaches to sleep training a baby. It’s important that the strategy you choose is one that is consistent with your individual lifestyle and schedule. Below are some methods to help your baby enjoy a good night’s sleep, put forth by experts:
Richard Ferber, M.D., author of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
According to Dr. Ferber’s controversial theory of “progressive waiting”, babies can be taught to sleep by allowing them to cry on till they feel inclined to sleep. Dr. Ferber stresses that it is important to put the baby in bed while he’s awake in order to encourage him to develop the habit of settling into sleep himself. Thus it is okay for your baby to get accustomed to a late bedtime (even up to 10 p.m.) as long as he is ready to fall asleep on his own by then.
Dr. Ferber, however, also attributes various reasons for sleepiness, ranging from medical conditions to inappropriate sleeping hours.
He recommends his method for babies over the age of 4 to 5 months as before that babies are not physically mature enough to sleep through the night.
Suzy Giordano, author of Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old
Suzy Giordano suggests a four-step plan to getting your baby to sleep:
- Feeding the baby every four hours, four times in a day.
- Gradually reducing and stopping the nightly feedings.
- Getting your baby up to sleep in bed for 12 hours a night.
- Implementing one-hour a.m. and two-hour p.m. nap times.
Giordano’s method involves keeping a record of all the baby’s feeding, sleeping and diaper changes, right from the time of birth till the time he is sleeping through the might.
It is recommended for babies between the ages of 8 to 10 weeks old and weighing at least 9 pounds.
Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block
Dr. Karp’s advises simulating the environment of a mother’s womb to calm the baby to sleep. For this he has developed the five S’s:
- Holding a baby in a side or stomach position by the parent (not in the crib)
- Creating shushing sounds or using white noise
- Swinging the baby to imitate movement inside a womb
- Encouraging sucking, either on a pacifier or breastfeeding
Dr. Karp’s method aims at making a baby comfortable by recreating the womb environment as closely as possible by swaddling the baby real tight, using loud enough sounds and vigorous swinging, using an automatic swing if necessary.
It can be used on babies right from the time of their birth.
Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping through the night
Jodi Mindell’s strategy for includes setting routines to follow through the day, including a fixed bedtime at around 7 or 8 p.m. She recommends encouraging the baby to fall asleep by putting him in bed while he’s drowsy and gradually withdrawing from activity such as rocking or breastfeeding. This way the baby will give up crying during the night and learn to sleep peacefully.
The key to success using this method lies in getting the baby so accustomed to his routine that he starts anticipating sleep at the fixed time.
A routine can be established as early as 6 weeks, though active ‘training’ should only begin between 3 to 6 months.
William Sears, M.D., co-author, along with wife Martha and two sons, of The Baby Sleep Book
According to the Dr. Sears “attachment parenting” theory, parents need to administer to the baby’s needs by responding to his crying. He also endorses breastfeeding as and when the baby displays hunger and co-sleeping with the baby. Dr. Sears also suggests that fathers actively interact with the baby.
This kind of parenting makes rigorous demands on parents, especially the mom, who needs to ensure that she gets adequate rest and sleep.
This method works fine with babies right from the time of their birth.
Marc Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Dr. Weissbluth suggests that babies should not be allowed to remain awake for more than two hours as they get tired, which then interferes with their ability to fall asleep. According to him, it is okay to put the baby to bed even if he’s already dozed off.
He suggests letting a newborn baby sleep every two hours till he is 4 months old, and then selecting a method based on the needs of the baby. He proposes three methods: “No cry” (picking up and comforting a child whenever he cries,) “graduated extinction” (similar to “progressive waiting”) and “extinction” (letting the baby cry.)