Children with sleep problems need help to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. There are different methods for training a child to sleep successfully, each method distinct in how involved the parents are in the sleep process. Learn to use the Weissbluth sleep training method to establish a healthy sleeping pattern for your child.
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Understand that the Weissbluth method of sleep training focuses on the parent reading the sleep cues of the child and acting accordingly. The Weissbluth method states that healthy sleep habits affect the child in every facet of life and children can be taught to sleep well.
Watch for your baby's natural pattern of sleep. Once the first signs of sleepiness occur (rubbing eyes, not as alert), soothe the child with swaddling, nursing, rocking or another reliable method and place the child in the crib. Let the child fuss for a few minutes before you check on him so he has a chance to get to sleep himself.
Create a consistent schedule for naps, as created by your child's natural sleep cycle. Little babies sleep every 3 hours or so in the early months. Babies from 8 months old and beyond usually take two naps per day. If your older baby won't go down for the first nap, try to keep him awake until it's time for the second nap and try again.
Establish an earlier bedtime for children with sleep issues. Start the bedtime routine (dinner, play, bath, stories and snuggling) earlier than usual to change the bedtime. An over-tired child is much more difficult to get to sleep because he is over-stimulated.
Know that the Weissbluth method for sleep training focuses on eliminating crying in different ways, depending on the how receptive the parents are in regards to allowing the child to cry it out. The most common Weissbluth method is the "extinction" method where a child is allowed to cry it out indefinitely at bedtime and for an hour at nap time. Follow the regular bedtime routine with your child and put him to bed. Leave the room and don't go back in. At nap time, allow for up to one hour of crying. If the child is still crying after the hour, soothe the child and try again at a later time.
Tips and warnings
- Sleep training for naps is more difficult than bedtime sleep training. Establish good bedtime sleep habits before you tackle naps.
- Keep any night diaper changes uneventful. Keep lights low and don't talk or communicate with the child.
- The extinction method for crying it out is hard on the parents because your instinct is to go right to your child at the first sound of a cry. Remember that you aren't "making" the child cry, you are "letting" the child cry. You are teaching him to sleep on his own which is very important and crucial to his overall development.
- Be consistent. Consistency is the most important element in sleep training success.
- Babies who are younger than 6 months old should not be allowed to cry it out using the extinction method. Young babies don't understand the concept that you're coming back for them, so their needs must be met as soon as possible.
- Never keep a child awake to accommodate your schedule. This disrupts the child's natural sleep cycle.
- Be prepared for a couple of nights of intense crying if you choose the Weissbluth extinction method to sleep train your child. The crying should lessen as the nights progress.