The advice expressed below is solely based on the authors own experiences and opinions. We recommend that you always seek the advice of your own or your child's Medical Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your child's specific health.
The adult brain might find it bizarre that it’s necessary to teach baby how to sleep on his/her own. When you’re tired, you just close your eyes, right?
No, that’s not the way it is for the little ones.
NO EASY TRICKS
Motherhood is a unique experience, and no two children are alike. Therefore, regrettably, there are no standard guidelines for you to use when it’s time to teach baby to sleep on his or her own.
Our purpose in presenting this brief guide is to summarize common recommendations without suggesting we have any magic tricks to make every baby sleep on his or her own. Our key advice is to follow your instincts based on your child’s individual behavior and needs.
DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF AND YOUR BABY TO OTHERS
It’s a challenge not to compare oneself with others, and that is particularly prominent during pregnancy and maternity. Yes, it may be helpful to gather information from other women, say, in terms of breastfeeding techniques and sleep management, but there’s a risk that doing so will create insecurity on your part.
If you’re lightheaded from fatigue in the new-mother support group because your baby won’t sleep, it is disconcerting to hear that, say, Anne’s baby is now sleeping in his or her own bed. It’s understandable if you find it stressful to be asked whether your baby is able to sleep through the night.
Fortunately, the definition of what’s normal is very wide. This applies to baby learning to crawl, how long you breastfeed or bottle feed, and when baby learns to sleep alone.
EVERYTHING IS A PHASE … EVERY CHILD IS UNIQUE
During the first year of life, the child goes though a series of developmental milestones. Especially during the first 6 months, the child is developing extremely rapidly – all the while you are dealing with, say, postpartum or breastfeeding challenges.
As the child learns new skills and develops his or her senses, there will be changes in his or her behavior, sleep patterns, and eating habits. Keep in mind that such difficult transitions usually signal better times to come. Just do your best!
WHEN WILL BABY BE ABLE TO SLEEP IN HIS OR HER OWN BEDROOM?
The health authorities recommend that baby sleep in the parents’ room until the age of six months. One reason is that baby needs the reassurance of closeness early in life after spending 9 months in mom’s tummy.
Another reason is that sudden infant death syndrome (crib death) occurs most frequently during the first 6 months. When you sleep in the same room, it’s easier to keep an eye out and make sure baby is OK.
Introducing new habits
By age 6-7 months, children are able to sleep for longer periods at a time without getting fed, and in some cases, they are able to sleep through the night.
That’s why many parents decide to alter the child’s sleeping routine at about this time. Parents and baby all get a more peaceful night when the little one is moved into a separate bedroom.
Of course, motherhood reflects different approaches, and cultural and personal preferences will have an influence on sleep routines.
Some women, for example, enjoy breastfeeding the baby to lull him or her asleep until the age of 1, and in many families, the baby sleeps in the parents’ bed.
In short: Do not feel pressured to teach baby to sleep alone at any given time.
SHOULD WE LET BABY CRY UNTIL HE OR SHE FALLS ASLEEP?
Spanish sleep expert Eduard Estivill says yes.
Estivill wrote the controversial book “5 Days to a Perfect Night's Sleep for Your Child”. It describes a method for teaching infants as young as 4 months how to sleep with minimal assistance from mom and dad.
In short, it describes a schedule for soothing baby after you have put him or her down. That is how baby learns to soothe itself.
The method has been met with criticism
The method, known as “graduated extinction”, is being criticized for harming children’s ability to manage stress. However, parents all over the world are very happy with the technique.
In Denmark, most childhood health professionals agree that it is not healthy for babies to scream until they fall asleep. When the child repeatedly calls out in desperation without being heard and soothed, he or she will eventually stop crying.
That is not because the little one understands that you are in the next room and all is well. The child stops crying because crying does not work.
STAY FOR A BIT IN THE CHILD’s ROOM
When baby gets upset over being put in his or her own bed, you could stay for a bit to make sure baby does not feel abandoned. For example, put a chair near the cot and caress the little one on the forehead.
Touch helps activate the hormone oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone”, and it helps the little one feel secure and relax.
Naturally, baby wants to be taken into your arms, but there’s no harm in baby crying for a little bit while being aware that you are still in the room. You could, for example, fold laundry while singing or humming.
Although you may not entirely avoid drama, you will be helping baby by creating conditions that are conducive to falling asleep. Knowing that you are nearby makes it easier for baby to learn to sleep alone. Additional information about a productive bedtime ritual is available here.
Thank you for being among our readers.
I’m Marie, mom to a little boy. And I’m the woman behind the Moonboon company making organic and sustainable baby accessories that respect people and the environment.
Have a look at our baby accessories here.
I want for my son to sleep in optimal conditions, and I want the same for your baby. That’s why I’m especially proud of our GOTS certified hammock and the specially designed motor that has helped me and many other parents sleep better at night.
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