WHEN SHOULD I SLEEP TRAIN MY CHILD?
When should I sleep train my child? This is a question I get asked a lot as a postpartum doula and sleep consultant. Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question without knowing all the details. The most important 2 things to consider are: is your baby ready and are you ready?
IS MY BABY READY?
While I can’t put a hard answer to this question, in terms of age, the earliest that I encourage sleep training would be 4 months old (adjusted). Until this time, babies aren’t ready to sleep 11-12 hours straight through as their “adult-like” sleep hasn’t fully developed yet.
As your baby nears 4 months, you will need to make sure that he is eating consistently during the day (every 3 hours) and getting full feeds so that he will not need to eat at night. There are some babies that do still need to eat in the middle of the night, but that doesn’t necessarily have to stop you from going forward with sleep training. If your child isn’t getting sufficient calories during the day, he will need to make up for that in the middle of the night. When this happens, your baby will wake up hungry and will need to eat. The goal is to get enough calories in during the day so that he won’t need that middle of the night feed.
In order to find out how much your baby should be eating, you multiply his body weight by 2.5. If your baby is 8 pounds, he will need 20 ounces in a 24 hour period. If you are nursing, it is obviously a little more challenging to determine whether your baby is getting enough calories, but if your baby is getting “full feeds” throughout the day, his intake should be sufficient. Again, feeding every 2.5-3 hours is ideal. If you feed any sooner than this, your baby could just be snacking and not getting sufficient calories. However, even if you do feed your baby every 3 hours with full feeds, he still might need to eat during the middle of the night. If you are concerned about this, I recommend seeking out a lactation consultant to help with this.
I don’t recommend sleep training if your child is sick or you feel like something is coming on. This can disrupt the sleep training process and while there are very gentle methods to sleep training, the most important thing to consider when your child is sick is to give them a lot of extra attention, love, snuggles and holding. Sometimes you will literally need to hold your little one upright to help them sleep better if he is congested or can’t breath without being elevated. Having a well child is ideal so you can rule out whether he is not responding to sleep training due to being sick.
APPROVAL FROM YOUR PEDIATRICIAN
Before sleep training, I always recommend getting approval from the pediatrician. This gives parents a peace of mind knowing that he has gotten the “ok” to do so. Some of the things that pediatricians approve of are the ideal weight for sleep training, how old the baby is and whether he might have any medical issues/problems. If all 3 of those are approved then you can rest easy knowing that sleep training is now an option.
ARE YOU READY?
After checking off the above boxes, it is entirely up to your family whether you want to sleep train your baby or not. No one should be pressured into it because someone told you to or someone else is doing it.
SOME BABIES DON’T NEED SLEEP TRAINING
Some babies don’t even need formal sleep training and will naturally sleep through the night by following a consistent bedtime routine and healthy habits. To get started on a Bedtime Routine click on the link for a free download. There might be an occasional “great sleeper” where the baby literally just starts sleeping through the night early on.
FROM A GREAT SLEEPER TO CHAOS
If you find that your baby once was a great sleeper or going long stretches at night, and all of a sudden, his sleep habits have fallen off the rails, it might be time to sleep train. He could be experiencing a growth spurt, learning a new skill, rolling over, etc. Sometimes, babies can get back on track, but if it has been several days of continued poor sleep, it might be time.
IS YOUR SLEEP BEING AFFECTED?
If your child’s sleep is interfering with your sleep (or anyone else in the family such as your spouse or other sibling), it might be time to take action. If you are suffering from lack of sleep, and it is affecting your mood or health, this isn’t beneficial for you or your family. Sleep is important for everyone and it is not a luxury. Oftentimes, mammas can feel guilty for wanting to sleep. In reality, lack of sleep can cause you to become sick, worn down, irritable or not be the best version of you. For this reason, it might be time.
DO YOU NEED A NEW SLEEP ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR BABY?
Another valid argument for sleep training is a desired change of sleeping environment. If you started co-sleeping with your child or your baby was in the room with you and now he wakes up throughout the night, it might be time for him to go in his own sleeping space or his own room. This situation might have worked well for everyone at the beginning, but if it is no longer working, then there is nothing wrong with changing the plan.
Lastly, mama guilt is real. I’m not denying that. I have a 19 year old and a 22 year old and I still have it. However, I give you permission to not feel guilty. You are not selfish for thinking that sleep training might be the answer. I always encourage parents that sleep training can actually be a gift for your child as well as you and your entire family. Everyone NEEDS to sleep. There are very gentle ways of sleep training based on what you want to do and the age and temperament of your child.
HOW CAN I HELP?
If you find yourself agreeing with some or all of the things that I have discussed and you don’t know what to do next, feel free to book a Discovery Call. I can help you and let you know if sleep training is right for you and your family. My goal is to encourage you, coach you through every situation that might come up, and cheer you on along the way. I don’t judge any situation because I know what it is like being a mama.