*This is Part Two of a Six Part Series. Please take a moment and read Part One, which covers bedtime routine.*
Jacob (top) and Esau (bottom) sleeping at two months (Esau still had stork bites then)
Sleep training is the act of teaching a baby to develop the skill of falling asleep on his/her own. This is skill that we are not born with and must be learned. To understand why sleep training is so important, let’s first look at why babies wake up throughout the night.
Why Babies Wake Through The Night:
Let’s look at why the average baby wakes up during the night.
Almost all babies are rocked or fed to sleep. Most parents feel that this is the only way to get their babies to sleep because otherwise their babies will cry when put down in their crib or bed, sometimes to the point of making themselves sick.
Rocking or feeding to sleep may work for some people when initially getting their babies to bed, however it will mean that you are going to have to do this several times throughout the night and here is why:
Humans, including you and I and everyone else from birth to death, wakes up many times every night during the transition between sleep cycles.
This is the time that we will roll over or maybe even talk in our sleep (it is a common belief that you talk in your sleep because of a dream you are having, but actually you are never dreaming at this time, because you are between sleep cycles and not in a REM sleep cycle), but we generally don’t even realize that we have woken up, because our bodies know how to fall back to sleep immediately.
The reason why most babies will wake up and cry for you throughout the night is because they do not know how to fall back to sleep on their own. If they only ever fall asleep by being rocked or fed, they are never learning that skill and will rely on you to continue to aid them to sleep.
Our Sleep Training Method:
After a lot of research, I decided to use the FERBER method for sleep training my sons. There are a lot of different sleep training options available which will work better for different families, but the Ferber method to me seemed to be the most reasonable, combining the tough love and effectiveness of what most people consider “cry it out” with the nurturing and reassurance of other less effective sleep training methods or lack thereof.
With the Ferber method, you put your baby in their bed/crib and give them lots of love and reassurance. Then you leave the room for a set small duration. (I use three minutes)
If the baby is still crying after the set duration, you go back into the room, but don’t pick him/her up. You just pat him or rub his back/stomach, reassure him with soft words and then leave again for a slightly longer duration (I use five minutes).
You continue waiting for slightly increased duration (for example, I use 3, 5, 10, 20, 37, 63, etc but they have never made it past the 20 minutes before), returning if the baby is still crying, patting, reassuring and then leaving.
What this does is reassure the child that you are still there and they are not abandoned, but that it is seriously time to go to sleep and that crying and carrying on will not manipulate you into giving into them.
This can be very hard to do for the first little while, and I know there were nights I cried more than they did, but it gets easier very quickly and before long, there won’t even be any crying at all and your baby will have learned to fall asleep on his own.
Next week I will cover the tough decision that any parent of twins face – to co-sleep or not to co-sleep!