Do I Need to Sleep Train?

When you bring home a newborn the first question people ask is “are you getting any sleep?” and the answer is probably “what do you think?” as you stare at them with bags under your eyes. It’s the newborn phase they said, it’ll pass they said. Well now your baby is 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, 14 months old and are you getting any sleep? You’ve probably been wondering if this is normal, do other babies do what your baby is doing. Will they start sleeping through the night eventually? Do I need to sleep train? Let’s talk about that.

As a certified sleep consultant I’ve talked to a lot of parents in varying stages of sleep deprivation. One of the first questions I get asked is will my baby sleep through the night on their own? Or why is my baby still waking at night? Do I need to sleep train? How do you sleep train? The biggest hurdle parents often face on their sleep journey is that they have become their child’s sleep prop. What is a sleep prop you ask? 

A sleep prop is any external thing that helps your baby fall asleep. The most common ones I’ve seen are feeding, rocking, patting, laying down with your child and bouncing to sleep. Take a moment and think about what your baby’s sleep prop might be. Do you feed them to sleep? Rock to sleep? Pat their back until they doze off? If your baby is asleep when you put them in bed then there is a sleep prop in play. This can prevent your baby from sleeping through the night without help.

Does Sleep Training Get Rid of a Sleep Prop?

If your baby is not used to going to bed awake herein lies the answer to your question. Do I need to sleep train and how do I start? Well if there is a sleep prop then the odds are no, you will need to make some changes. Learning to fall asleep is a skill just like crawling, feeding themselves, walking etc. Some babies need very little direction when it comes to learning this skill and others need a bit more. 

There are different of methods you can use to give your baby the opportunity to learn this skill. 

  • The chair or camp out method
  • Leave and check in 10 minute intervals
  • Extinction or “cry it out”

These are the 3 most common methods for babies over 6 months old. Pick one of these methods and stick to it 100% for the next 3-5 days before deciding it doesn’t work. You’ve made a big change in your baby’s life, they deserve a bit of time to adjust. Going to bed awake will put your baby on the path to sleeping through the night.

I know this feels overwhelming, let me explain why in bed awake is a big deal.

Falling Asleep On Their Own At Bedtime 

When you remove a sleep prop and your baby begins to learn to fall asleep without help this new skill translates to night wakings. Imagine falling asleep on the couch and then waking up in the middle of the night in your bed. That might be a bit disorienting right? Well your baby is falling asleep in your arms then when they experience a natural night waking they’re in a completely different place than when they fell asleep. Because the environment is different they wake up completely and now need their sleep prop to go back to sleep. If your baby can fall asleep on their own when/if they wake up at all in the night they can just roll over and go back to sleep. No need for assistance. 

“Sleep training” is a very hot topic, one I really like to talk about. However I understand it can come with some anxiety. I enjoyed this article by Dr Alice Callahan on how helping babies learn to sleep independently is so beneficial in the long run.

So do I need to sleep train? Possibly but I promise the sleep prop is really the answer to your question. As a sleep consultant this is exactly what I help families with. Identifying their sleep prop and removing it so that baby learns this important life skill of falling asleep independently. Have questions or want some support on this journey? Book a free 15 minute call. I’m happy to help!

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