There is no hard and fast rule in dealing with the issue of baby sleep training. Remember that each child is wonderfully unique and that one approach may work for another mom but may fail to work for you. Pediatrician Dr. Abigail Laurel-Suntay says that, “From time to time, you will need to help your baby fall asleep or go back to sleep. Especially as a newborn, he will doze off most easily if given gentle continuous stimulation. Some infants are helped by rocking, walking, patting on the back, or by a pacifier in the mouth. For others, music from a radio or a music player can be very soothing if played at moderated volume.”
The “no tears” sleep training approach may take a while longer to establish compared to the Cry It Out (CIO) approach, but advocates conclude that it is less distressing for you and your baby in the long run. If you feel that your baby’s sleep problems are causes for major concern, talk to your doctor about this and discuss possible solutions. Below are some elements of the “no tears” sleep training approach.
Encourage Daytime Activity This is not to say that you over-stimulate her, but do connect with her by singing, playing, and even talking. These will help stimulate her during the day and encourage better sleep at night.
Have Healthy Bedtime Routines Another supporter of the “no tears” approach is Elizabeth Pantley, the author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution. In her book, Dr. William Dement, MD, PhD says, “setting a routine and developing healthy bedtime cues and nighttime associations will allow your baby to drift off to sleep.”
Have a relaxed and consistent bedtime ritual. For example, you may want to read a book, then give her a warm bath, cuddle for a while, then put her to bed at about the same time each night.
Doing things differently each time throws your baby off her natural rhythm. Avoid frenzied activities before bedtime to calm and prepare her for sleep. Having a routine gives her an idea of what’s to come next. Knowing what happens gives her a sense of safety and security.
Understand Your Child Critics say that this approach results in a needy and overly dependent baby, asking for comfort constantly at bedtime, making it harder for the baby to self soothe. But it is always important to keep a realistic view of your baby’s sleeping pattern as well as take the time and effort to understand her schedule and ways of communicating.
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Pediatrician, attachment parenting advocate, and author of The Baby Sleep Book and Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep, Dr. William Sears says that, “babies need to be parented to sleep, not just put to sleep.”
Giving your baby comfort when she needs it at night is not a bad thing. You are teaching her security and assuring her of your presence. Sleeping through the night is considered a developmental milestone like sitting down, crawling, or walking. Your child will be able to sleep through the night when she is fit and ready to do so. Instead of forcing your baby to learn how to sleep through the night, you must first create an environment that is conducive to rest, relaxation, and sleeping.
Interview with Dr. Abigail Laurel-Suntay. She holds clinics at Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Southwoods Multi-Specialty Clinic, and Tokyo Healthlink Inc., Medical and Diagnostic Center-Alabang.
Photography by Jun Pinzon
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