AGE-APPROPRIATE SLEEP TRAINING TIPS:
2 Weeks – 2 Months
- We do not expect children this age to sleep through the night. If your baby wakes up at night and indicates she is hungry, you should always feed her.
- Your primary focus at this age is surviving and getting as much sleep as you can. This means prioritizing short term goals and using the 5 S’s to help calm your baby and help him sleep.
- Because babies do not recognize days vs nights at this age, make sure your baby is eating at least every 3 hrs during the day (some formula fed babies can go up to 4 hours). At night, you are welcome to let your baby sleep as long as she wants unless otherwise directed by your pediatrician. It is important to make sure she is eating frequently during the day because if she takes a long nap during the day it means you just sabotaged your night time sleep.
2 Months – 4 Months
- At this age children are capable of responding and interacting with their environment, this means they are capable of developing habits and patterns. Our goal is to help your infant develop habits and patterns that will promote sleeping through the night.
- Most infants are able to give you a 6 hour stretch of sleep at this age. If your baby is not doing that yet, don’t worry, just keep working on good sleep habits. Your baby is still young enough that if she tells you she is hungry at night and wants to eat, you should always feed her.
- Hopefully by this age you have already developed the habit and pattern of frequent feeds during the day, and long naps at night. At this age the goal is for your child to learn how to fall asleep on his own without being rocked, fed, or held to sleep. This is important because between 4 – 6 months of age all infants start to move a lot when they sleep and wake themselves up. If the child associates falling asleep with being rocked, fed, or held to sleep, then he will want you to come in and rock, feed, or hold him back to sleep anytime he wakes up. If the child learns how to fall asleep on his own, then he will put himself back to sleep when he wakes up.
4 Months – 6 Months
- By this age most infants should be able to give you a consistent 9 hours of sleep at night. If your child is not sleeping through the night then be sure to discuss the issue with your pediatrician to make sure there is not some alternative reason your child is not sleeping.
- If your doctor confirms that your baby is healthy and ok for sleep training, check out the following resources for detailed instructions on how to get your baby to sleep through the night:
- Dr Craig Canapari an excellent sleep psychologist who has lots of free information available on-line.
- Baby Sleep a website hosted by the Pediatric Sleep Council that provides lots of information for all kinds of sleep problems.
- Taking Cara Babies a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who has online classes available to teach you how to sleep train your baby.
- Tranquil Beginnings a Pediatric Sleep Consultant based in Dallas who provides consultations.
- Moshi an app that contains bedtime stories, meditations, and music designed to help children fall asleep. They also have lots of helpful information about sleep training.
For older children who have Bedtime Resistance or Night Wakings, try the following tips:
- Establish and maintain a consistent BEDTIME ROUTINE in order to improve both bedtime problems and night wakings. The routine should last 20 to 40 min and include a predictable sequence of at least 3 to 4 soothing activities such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading, and changing into pajamas. Avoid high stimulation activities just before bedtime.
- NIGHT WAKINGS: Keep in-person checks at night brief (less than 1 to 2 min) and boring (pat rather than pick up and cuddle).
- NIGHT WAKINGS: For children over 4 to 6 months old, NIGHT WAKINGS are often caused by the child’s dependence upon parental presence. SYSTEMATIC IGNORING is the best method to wean from parental presence dependence within 7-10 days in most cases. TRY EITHER Unmodified extinction (“crying it out”) which involves putting the child to bed at a designated bedtime and then ignoring the child until a set time the next morning; or Graduated extinction which involves putting the child to bed drowsy but awake and waiting progressively longer periods before going in for “brief and boring” checks on child. Increase the waiting period before checking on each subsequent night.
- If starting these tips for the first time, a successful plan may involve 3 nights of establishing a bedtime routine and target bedtime, 3 nights of parent sitting at child’s cribside or bedside until she falls asleep, 3 nights of sitting in bedroom doorway, then 3 nights of sitting outside the doorway.
- If these tips have not been successful then check out the resources highlighted above for additional strategies or schedule a visit with your pediatrician.