Helping Your Child Learn to Sleep
Most parents at one time or another wonder if and when their child is ever going to learn to sleep on their own. When your baby is quite young she’ll need to wake up at least once during the night to nurse or bottle feed. Young babies also need the reassurance that you’re there. However, when your baby is about six months old it’s okay for her to sleep through the night. The question now is whether or not you’re going to let her cry herself to sleep or not. There are no set rules to this question. It’s going to be up to you whether or not you let her cry or whether you step in and soothe her to sleep.
Crying Won’t Harm Your Baby
The first thing to know is that crying won’t harm your baby. While it can be very difficult to listen to your baby cry and know that the only thing she wants is for you to come in to soothe her, letting her cry won’t hurt her. It may sound as though she’s never going to stop crying but eventually she’ll either fall asleep or else she’ll realize that no one is coming in to see her no matter how much she cries. While some parents are able to close their ears and believe that letting their baby cry to sleep is best for their family, other parents are unable to listen to these cries of helplessness. Again, the decision falls on you to do what you feel is best for you and your baby.
The Five Minute Rule
So long as you’re putting your baby to bed at bedtime it’s all right to do what you think is best to help her fall asleep. This may mean rocking her to sleep in a chair or walking back and forth with her until she falls asleep. You could try rocking for a few minutes, putting her into bed, and then leaving the room. Allow her a bit of time to try and fall asleep, even if this means listening to five minutes of crying. After these five minutes are up you can go back to her and rock her a bit more, reassuring her that you’re just outside the room but that now it’s time to go to sleep. When you first start doing this you might have to return to her a few times before she finally falls asleep. You may have to extend the five minutes to ten minutes to see results. With some patience and persistence, your baby will eventually learn that after you rock her for a few minutes and then put her into bed that it’s time to go to sleep.
Establish a Routine
Having a consistent routine at bedtime will help your baby to associate this routine with time to sleep. When you do the same thing every night it will be easy for your baby to recognize the signals that she’s going to be put into bed. Establish the routine that once she’s in bed, she stays there. It’s up to you whether you let her cry in bed or whether you go to her to offer some soothing words and a gentle touch without picking her up out of her bed. Stick with the same bedtime routine every night without variation. Do what works best for you. A routine can mean a bath, a last nursing or bottle feeding, a story, a cuddle, and then bed.
Teaching to Self-Comfort
Even babies, as young as six months old, can learn how to comfort themselves. Give her the same blanket or teddy bear every night when you put her to bed. Let her know that she can cuddle her blanket or bear if she can’t fall asleep right away. Also, reassure her that you’re just outside the room but that now it’s time for her to go to sleep. Follow a bedtime routine that is comforting and familiar to her. You want to your baby to learn how to comfort herself and to do this you need to create a loving and safe environment.
Be Positive and Supportive
Think of your baby learning to fall asleep on her own as just another milestone in her development rather than something that you’ve been dreading. The skill of falling asleep on her own is one that is very important to her independence and development. Once you’ve found a routine and rhythm for your baby to fall asleep you’ll find that it becomes easier all the time. You’ll also find that the older she gets the less she’ll wake up during the night as well. Don’t be discouraged if your baby isn’t sleeping as well as your friend’s baby. Every baby is different. Also, you may find that what works for you for a couple of months all of a sudden stops working. As your baby gets older you may have to slightly modify some of her bedtime routine.