Being a slave to the baby monitor is not the way to embrace or embark on parenthood. Don’t get us wrong, babies are cute and small and they make our hearts clench with the enormity of the importance of the little life just created. Once your new born baby has arrived you are then in a situation – if you are extremely unlucky – of being woken every 2-4 hours a night for an absolute minimum of six months. You are busy being focused on what’s best for your baby and sleepless nights seem a small price to pay for that focus. By week six however, getting up every two hours to nurse the baby gets really old, really fast. The trouble is if you’re breastfeeding you could be trying to establish a feed supply and that is a hindrance to your beauty sleep. You could be very lucky and have a baby who sleeps right through the night save for a feed or two but for the normal baby, that doesn’t happen. Only in fairy tales does that happen!
Many babies get their days and nights mixed up, napping for long periods in the afternoon and waking up to play at bedtime. Sleep training is all about getting your little one to sleep and there are companies out there like hatacademy.co.uk that offer actual sleep training courses. What I will say though, is that you can read every book and take every course out there, but that doesn’t mean there is a magic cure. Our babies are born without instruction manuals and rule books and what works for one baby will not work at all for another baby.
There is a reason there is a magic time of six months of age. This is that a baby is actually supposed to wake up. Their stomachs are tiny for a start so regular feeding is the only way they will grow; they don’t stay full for as long as an adult does. When babies are born they have emerged from a warm, dark safe place in a small space to a world that is loud, bright, cold and absolutely huge. That is scary! It’s like being stuck inside with a broken leg for weeks and being allowed outside; you’re disoriented and may feel overwhelmed and seeing as babies can only communicate by crying, that is exactly what they do. All they want is to be held those first few months and the development that they go through during those months is huge.
There are three very common sleep training methods: cry it out, controlled crying and pick up and put down. Crying it out is the least recommended and it’s the practice of putting a warm, full, dry baby down on its back in its room while sleepy to go to sleep. Once in the cot, if they cry, they cry and you don’t go in to see to them. The downside to this is that they learn that no one will come when they cry, so they learn to stop crying. Controlled crying starts in a similar way, but you go into the room every minute for the first night and gently sooth the baby without picking it up and gradually increase the timings until they understand sleeping without you is ok. The last is a combination of the two but each time you see the baby you pick up and calm it down.