Sleep training is all the rage these days, and with numerous options and suggestions, many parents and caretakers often find themselves bewildered. Especially for a new mom; the sleep chatter can be just a tad overwhelming. We are all tired. But, do we really need to train our babies to sleep better. Maybe there are things about our baby that we haven’t noticed. Little cues that can help them rest without intrusion from us.
Sometimes when we to stop to take a closer look, we find obvious clues that we missed in our foggy brain exhaustion. Maybe the baby simply does not like what we are doing, the routine we are setting, or the sleeping environment.
Do you know what your baby’s sleep preferences are? Does she like to be held? Prefer a light on? Enjoy soft and soothing music? A book or a lullaby? To be left alone in the quiet? To fall asleep in the middle of a crowded room? To be bounced or rocked to sleep? Some babies even prefer to cry to fall asleep. Some babies love to be bundled and others hate it. Understanding what your baby prefers is crucial to sleep success. Just like you and I, even infants have preliminary preferences for what they do and do not like.
It might be true that your baby will indeed need sleep training. But, before you jump on board, learn a little more about your baby that could make all the difference in the world.
15 Does The Baby NEED To Be Sleep Trained?
Sleep training is the process of teaching a baby to fall asleep on his or her own, and then to say asleep through the night. Not all babies need to be sleep trained. Babies who do not fall asleep independently, or who do not stay asleep through the night do not necessarily have a sleep problem. Because a baby started sleeping through the night, and then stopped again, does not mean that sleep training is necessary. Often times a variation in sleep pattern is influenced by developmental milestones. When the brain or body is in high gear, it can be difficult for babies to rest until the task is achieved. Teething and digestive issues are also common culprits for sleep disturbances in children.
In addition, sometimes parents respond to a baby’s movements or noises during sleep, assuming the child has woken. Some babies are just active or noisy sleepers, and concerned parents can’t help it to jump up at the slightest reason for concern. This does not mean that the baby isn’t sleeping through the night, but instead that the parent isn’t.
14 Is The Baby The Right Age?
Experts say that all babies should be capable of sleeping through the night by 6 months of age. This does not mean that all or even many will. A variety of other factors can also influence when a baby naturally learns to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. Some babies do not sleep a full night (6-12 hours) until after 12 months of age. Most or at least about 70% of babies reportedly sleep through the night by around 9 months of age. Again, this does not mean they do so every night. It only means that they have done so at least once and have shown that they are capable. Still, some parents complain that their kids don’t sleep through the night until they are well into the toddler years. And a lucky few, reports babies who sleep through the night by 3 months of age. Every baby is different and no specific age is the “right” age.
13 Can The Baby Self Soothe?
The term “self soothe” has a variety of explanations and meanings. For some, it is interpreted negatively and conjures up images of tortured babies being left to cry it out. But, self soothing is more than a sleep training method and is an important part of psychological development in infants. It is essentially when a baby learns to comfort herself in times of need. It can happen in the moments when hunger strikes and the food is not instantly available. It might occur when Mommy´s hand is not available, so the baby squeezes a blanket instead. It can also happen when a baby cries for a minute or two, before calming himself and then drifting off to sleep. Or, in the night when an infant whimpers and rolls over to find comfort. He might even whine for a bit before returning to dreamland. These are all self soothing techniques. It happens when another person does not offer soothing, but instead when a baby learns to find it himself. This developmental ability is essential for a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own.
12 Is The Baby Over Or Under Stimulated?
Sometimes parents are surprised to understand that the environmental conditions for sleep just aren’t quite right for baby. Even in a carefully crafted nursery, the wrong stimulus can wreak havoc on the ability to relax. Sometimes there is a little too much going on, keeping infants distracted and stimulated. That fancy mobile: the one with music and spinning parts, and blinking lights? It could be the wrong thing for sleep time, keeping baby awake and frustrated or agitated. But, a dark and a silent room could also spell trouble. Being unable to see or hear anything might be stressful for an infant, who likely finds comfort in just knowing that you are nearby. The key is finding a happy medium that your baby noticeable responds well, too. Perhaps an interesting pattern on the wall, a little light coming in from the window, or just leaving the door open a crack with do the trick. Babies don’t need or necessarily benefit from all the fancy, nursery gadgets on the market.
11 Does The Baby Eat At Night?
If your baby still eats at night, this could be the reason why she does not sleep through the night. Some babies will wean themselves from night time feedings naturally. They may just stop waking up when the need or desire to nurse at night dissipates. Other babies will continue to nurse during the night until they are weaned by the mother. Sometime between 4 and 6 months of age, most babies do not have a nutritional need to eat in the middle of the night. However, many are dependent on the act of nursing to fall asleep or wake up to feed simply because they like to. It is largely a personal choice between Mother and Baby if weaning is the best option for one or both. As far as sleeping through the night goes, many babies need to be weaned from night time feedings before undisturbed sleep begins.
10 Does The Baby Use A Pacifier While Sleeping?
Whatever you call it: a binky, a pacificier, a nuk, or something else; many parents have a big time nighttime battle over baby’s most prized possession. For some it is a blessing, a comfort measure to put the baby to sleep or to keep the baby asleep. The artificial nipple can act as replacement for breast or bottle feeding in the middle of the night. The drawback? For some infants, they wake up as soon as the binky falls out during deeper stages of sleep. This can be a total hassle for caretakers, who must get up to replace the pacifier when it falls out. And for baby, this self-soothing method is somewhat artificial if they can’t or are not willing to put it back in their mouth themselves. Some parents find that weaning from the nuk must happen before consistent full nights of sleeping begin. Just like the breast or the bottle, babies need to gain independence from an outside source in order to learn to soothe themselves enough to make it through the night.
9 Can The Baby Keep A Routine?
Most of the time babies are responsive to very predictable routines. If they wake, sleep, nap, eat and play at regular intervals, they usually love to replicate the same pattern day in and day out. Sometimes babies sleep better and for longer periods when they are given the opportunity to follow a rhythm. It can help to set a routine, by waking baby up at the same time every day, and by waking her up after a specified time during naps. When babies sleep too much during the day, sometimes they can get their days and nights reversed. Recognizable routines seem to benefit even very young infants. We all like to know what’s coming next. And even a baby can associate a repetitive pattern with an impending time for sleeping. It might even be true that the baby is getting plenty of sleep, is just so happens that it doesn’t happen in segments of 6 hours or more…at night. If it is you who needs more sleep at night, it might help to change or establish a regular sleep and wake routine for both you and the baby.
8 Does The Baby Like To Be Warm Or Cool?
If your baby doesn't seem to fall asleep easily or to stay asleep for long, it might be something in the sleeping environment that is wrong. Just like adults, babies can have a preference for specific sleep conditions.
Take note of if your baby sweats at night, or if they seem to feel cold. Some babies hate to be bundled in blankets or swaddles, while others can’t sleep without them. Same goes for pajamas! Your baby might love to be bundled up in fuzzy jumpers, or he might hate having his feet entrapped and much prefers to just be in a diaper.
Take your baby’s cues in stride and help him find his best comfort level. If your baby seems too hot, but loves to have a blanket on, consider leaving the window open or keeping a fan on at night. If the baby seems too cold but hates heavy jammies, maybe a warmer room temperature would suite her better.
Resist the urge to tweak the crib if he appears to be sleeping just fine. This means, don’t cover him up again if he’s kicked the blanket off (and he is obviously warm enough)!
7 Does The Baby Like Quiet Or Soothing Noise?
We can all relate to how frustrating it can be if the room is too noisy to fall asleep. Or, for others it can be much too quiet and we need some sort of white noise to help us get some rest. Babies are just tiny humans, and they can have these types of disturbances, too. They difference is they may not be able to vocalize what is bothering them so much. Instead they might toss and turn, wake up frequently, or just cry in the night until someone picks them up. It can be helpful to pay attention to what noise levels are most beneficial to them falling asleep and staying asleep. Some babies enjoy soft music playing the background, or a fan buzzing nearby, others appreciate total silence. If you honestly don’t know, it’s okay to experiment until one option seems the best fit
6 Does The Baby Like To Be Alone Or Cuddled?
As disappointing or frustrating as it might be, some babies simply do not like to be held or cuddled. Most of us imagine infants as perpetually snuggly and in need of comforting. But, that is not always the case. It is important to appreciate your baby’s need for independence if that is what they prefer. If they squirm and fuss when picked up, sometimes it is better to let them wiggle and whine on their own. For some, cuddling and snuggling is just frustrating and suffocating.
Of course some are the opposite side and seem to demand snuggling, even crying and waking when they are put down. Sometimes co-sleeping can help both parents and baby to sleep through the night. For those who don’t welcome this route; a snuggly baby might be happy to have a special toy or blanket. Sleeping in the same room, but in a different bed can help, too. Once again, this is a personal choice, and what works for one family doesn’t work for all. But, noticing what your baby needs to help her sleep can be very beneficial in stopping night time waking.
5 Does The Baby Prefer A Light Or Dark Room?
Light or darkness can also provide a room that is either welcoming or frightening for an infant. Young infants are not exactly having bad dreams or feeling afraid of the dark. But, total darkness can cause them to feel disoriented or alone. Allowing a baby enough light to recognize their surroundings can be very comforting. A dim night light or a door left ajar might be the perfect fit.
Too much light can be a problem too. If it isn’t dark before baby goes to bed, or if too much light comes from another room, babies can have trouble shutting out the stimulus to relax.
In addition, if a room was very light, and the baby wakes up in the dark, she might have trouble recognizing the space. Rather than looking around, rolling over and going back to sleep, she might wake up alert and disturbed. In this case, putting the baby to sleep in an already dark room might be helpful.
Some babies don’t mind light variations, and others are very sensitive. It might sound redundant, but take your cues from baby to understand what she does or doesn’t appreciate.
4 Does Rocking Help Or Hurt Relaxation?
Rocking chairs, rocking cribs, pacing back and forth, even automated baby swings all seem common place for those with little ones. Some of these are surefire methods to get a fussy baby to fall asleep. It might not always work, but only in certain situations, like when the baby has a tummy ache or needs distraction from a tooth coming in. Other babies rely completely on the rhythms to help them fall asleep, but usually they will outgrow this as they become accustomed to life outside the sloshing womb.
As most things in the baby world; there are always examples on the opposite side of the coin. If it seems like your baby is bothered by rocking, it’s perfectly okay to spare him the stimulation. Sometimes movement and activity are not relaxing for babies, but instead keep them awake. If your baby seems agitated, refrain from the activity and give him the chance to find his own soothing method.
3 Does The Baby Prefer Isolation Or Immersion?
We’ve all see that baby, you know, the one who sleeps through anything, in any situation, at any time. We often look on with envy, bewildered by how our own baby can be so impossible to get to sleep.
Whether it is an infant who peacefully nods off the moment her head hits the crib, or the bouncing baby who can deep-sleep in the center of a crowded room: they seem like a dream to the rest of us. But, the truth is they might not necessarily be an easy or even perfect baby. It could simply be that the caretaker has taken the cues very well and has not tried to intervene.
It you take a step back and look, it might be very obvious, that your baby likes to sleep in isolation or that he prefers to crash in the middle of the chaos. Any baby can differ from the rest, but if its reliable slumber you’re looking for; let him be…wherever he wants to be when he falls asleep. Sometimes we make it much harder than it needs to be.
2 Does The Baby Soothe By Touch?
What relaxes one, does not relax all. Just like any individual, some people appreciate a lot of affection while others flat out reject it. If it happens to be that the baby is touchy-feely, it’s okay to indulge the preference. It doesn’t mean the baby has to be held or cuddled all the time. But, if affection calms them, applying lotion, giving a massage, or rubbing the back can help some infants relax at bedtime.
For others these actions are too stimulating, but they might just like to somehow touch you when they fall asleep. With some babies, falling asleep and staying asleep requires a happy medium between too much and not enough affection. Clutching your finger for a few minutes can help some babies feel enough comfort to fall asleep. Others like a simply pat on the back to help them drift off.
If the baby rejects all of the above, it’s okay to stand by and reassure him or her with nothing more than your presence.
1 Is The Baby Sensitive To Scent?
We might not think about it a whole lot, but getting a baby to sleep through the night has a big connection with all five senses. Relaxation is highly related to sight, sound, touch, and even taste. But, what about scent? Even if you have tried everything else to help your baby sleep, you might not have thought of this.
Smells can have a powerful influence on anyone, even little ones. You might try the relaxing scents of aromatherapy, with oils or lotions, or diffusers in the room. Even a simple bath time routine with familiar smells can be very relaxing for a baby.
If you are already doing some of these things, it could also be the culprit that is disturbing the baby. Perhaps she doesn’t like strong or specific smells. It might even be that she would prefer the scent of you over all else. Trying removing or reducing the stimuli to see if it has any affect on how your baby sleeps.