Before your baby was born, there were a lot of things you probably pre-planned. You most likely thought about what the nursery might look like, whether to share a room, what diapers to use, what car seat to buy, and even what type of pajamas your baby should wear. Some things are easier to plan ahead than others because they aren’t overly dependent on your baby’s personality but more about safety or your taste in color or style.
And, then you have your baby and realize some things do need to change based on your baby’s personality. My son, for example, didn’t like to be too hot and it’s easy to overheat a baby when you’re a new mom worried about your son getting cold.
What happens when your baby is “allergic to sleep” like mine was? Unfortunately, you are scouring books and websites all about baby sleep to solve your baby’s sleep problems. Through reading, you will learn there’s a way to teach your baby to sleep better called sleep training. And, then you find out there are many different ways to sleep train your baby.
How do you choose the right baby sleep training? Here are some tips:
Although you may know yourself very well pre-baby, your post-baby self may be different. Something seems to fundamentally change inside us when we have a baby. We are now responsible for another living person who is dependent upon us for everything. If the pressure isn’t enough to keep them alive, we are then often deathly afraid of messing them up emotionally for the rest of their life!
Of course, some of us are more nervous than others about pretty much everything. Learning a bit about how you approach parenting and your general feelings about how you will go about teaching your baby new skills such as eating with utensils, going down a slide, or putting on their shoes may help you in finding the right sleep training method for you. Are you more of the hands-on “let me show you how” type or the “Try yourself and fail a few times; you’ll get it.” type?
Know Your Baby
All babies are unique and that’s no secret. It takes some time to get to know your baby, but there are a few things you will want to know sooner rather than later to help you with sleep training.
- Is your baby easy-going or high-needs?
- Does your baby cry softly or loudly? Do they go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat and are they hard to calm down once they start crying?
- Is your baby predictable with their schedule or does it vary a lot?
- Do you find your baby is sensitive to noise or leaving your side?
All of these temperament and personality traits can impact the approach you take with not only sleep training but many things that will arise in your parenting.
Learn the Baby Sleep Training Methods
Just like there are multiple ways to teach a person how to ride a bike or to swim, there are different ways to teach your baby how to sleep better. From gentle sleep coaching to cry-it-out extinction type sleep training, there is a lot to choose from. And, even within the methods, there are a lot of variables you can incorporate such as whether you are sharing a room or sharing a bed, whether you sleep train at night or at nap time, or even whether you stop feeding at night or not.
The first step is to learn the 5 most common baby sleep training methods as a foundation. Although there are many ways to implement each method, getting to know the basics will be a solid first step.
Match the Method to You and Your Baby
The final step in finding the right sleep training method for you and your baby is to match what you know about yourself, what you know about yourself, and the sleep training method you feel has the best chance of being successful.
For example, if you have a baby who takes a long time to calm down from crying even with your help, then a cry-it-out type of sleep training method would not usually be a good choice even if you have a parenting approach of “try it yourself, first.” Your baby would likely cry for very long periods and the attempt would likely result in failure. Your more sensitive and intense baby may need a more hands-on, gentler approach. On the other hand, babies who are very alert and social may be distracted by a gentler approach even if your parenting approach is more of a hands-on one. You may just end up with something like a mash-up of in between two approaches.
Keep in mind that any sleep training attempt may be difficult the first few times and the first method you choose may not be the one with which you finish but getting started is the first step and you can make adjustments along the way. This is something I help families with every day and with your determination you can be successful, too!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help!