Sleep Training Your Baby Now
It’s not an uncommon happening: a desperate parent with dark circles under their eyes Google-ing “sleep training” in the aftermath of an awful night of interrupted sleep. Sleep is important for your health and the health of your baby. Sleep Training is restorative and strengthening our bodies and minds. The vital mental processing of the day’s events, growth of muscles, and repairing of tissue happens while we sleep. It’s wonderful to get a good night’s sleep. It’s worth some time and effort to set the stage for good sleep.
Home is a training ground for children to become independent adults. As parents, we help our babies to adapt to life here on earth. This is a slow and integrated acclimatization process. While in the womb a baby’s circadian rhythm, her regular cycles of sleepiness and alertness, are connected to her mother’s hormones. Babies usually establish their own rhythm between 3-4 months. Throughout childhood, a caregiver’s help is needed to set the stage for a healthy rhythm. Holistic sleep training begins by examining what happens during waking hours.
A healthy rhythm can be encouraged with the following:
– During the day, make sure your child has exposure to natural light and fresh air. This will help establish their inner clock, an awareness of daytime and nighttime. As your child gets older, make sure she has ample time to play outdoors. Movement and lively activity will ready her for sleep.
– One thing leads to another. Maintain similar mealtimes, naptimes, and sleep times each day. Make sure daily routines are child-inclusive, rather than centered on your child. Your needs as a parent are also important.
– Designate a specific area for sleep. Your child will recognize that when in this space it is time to sleep and will feel comfortable and safe doing so. Make sure the area is clear of toys and over-stimulating distractions.
– Slow down your evenings. After dinner start rituals that signal bedtime. At first the ritual will be simple: A newborn has a diaper change, feeds, and is tucked in. As your child nears a nine-months and a feed no longer lulls them to sleep, a ritual may start to include a calming bath, singing a lullaby or playing calming music, a little prayer or rhythmic verse, and a bedtime story.
– Try allowing your house to darken with the setting of the sun. Use candles to light your home until your child sleeps. Exposure to electric lights, especially the blue light of electronic screens and some LED or fluorescent lights, interrupts circadian rhythms.
Even after your child has developed a healthy sleep rhythm regression often happens. Sleep regression may occur during shifts in physical development, such as teething and growth spurts, as well as shifts in intellectual development, such as increasing awareness of their surroundings. Pay attention to your child. Changes in your child’s waking behavior will indicate whether the interruption to her rhythm must be dealt with by the old adage: This too shall pass. Or if it calls for a shift in routine or habit, such as dropping a daytime nap or ditching a pacifier.