Most babies aren’t accustomed to falling asleep without being held in our arms or sleeping alone the whole night. Your baby may require just a little help from you to achieve that milestone on their own. Start sleep-training your baby as early on as you are comfortable with it so that they can go to sleep without your help.
Babies often become reliant on sucking, being rocked, or being carried when they want to sleep. The first step in fostering independence is to cut these habits out slowly. It won’t happen overnight and it surely won’t be easy, but it works. Once they learn how to fall asleep by themselves, they will learn to stop expecting your help.
To help your baby develop good sleeping habits early, here are three steps you can take when sleep-training your baby
Break the relation between sucking and sleep
If your newborn keeps expecting you to feed them every time they want to fall asleep, you’ll find yourself waking up every time they wake up too. In the long run, this is tiresome and unsustainable for your health and mood. The first step you should take is to gradually break the association between carrying, feeding or sucking on a pacifier, and falling asleep. It is usually wise to start by rocking them instead and making that the only routine habit before sleep. Give them some time to adjust to this.
You should be feeding your infant when they first wake up from a nap, and again a little later if they are awake and still hungry. But when they are just sleepy or cranky, try rocking or tapping instead of feeding. That way, they begin to realize that they can actually fall asleep without sucking or being carried. By this time you should know the different cries they have for hunger, pain, discomfort, and attention, but here’s a little guide that helps.
Wake your baby a little when you put them down to sleep
Babies take your arms to be the safest place for them, so they naturally start panicking when you set them down. While your baby shouldn’t be dependent on sleeping in your arms, it can be traumatizing for them to constantly experience this panic. Once they’re asleep and you’re placing them into the crib, make sure to jostle the little one just enough to wake them slightly. It may sound absurd considering all that effort it took to put them to sleep, but this is essential for their psychological health.
By doing this, you’re actually teaching your child something priceless — nothing bad is going to happen if they wake up in the crib and are alone. This may not be successful for the first 20 or 30 times you try it, but after some time, they will stop going into a full panic. Eventually, your baby will master the art of drifting back into sleep, and so can you!
Lose the rock for successful sleep-training
Once your baby has gotten used to being rocked to sleep, begin the next phase of sleep-training — falling asleep without rocking. Begin by limiting the rocking to a short minute before they fall asleep, then slowly decrease the rocking period over a few days or weeks.
When you stop rocking, just sit there holding your baby. If they protest, begin rocking a little and then stop again. You will have to patiently repeat this and it may take between 10 to 25 attempts but eventually, your little one will learn to fall asleep even before you begin rocking.