You are at your monthly pediatric check up, and your pediatrician has just asked you how things are going. She broaches the topic of sleep, and you’re exhausted. You’ve now read the books and joined the Facebook groups about sleep training. You’re considering if that’s for you, and you bring it up to your doctor. What does she say? She mentions that you need to wait till after 4-5 months of age. There’s not much explanation. The pediatrician says babies aren’t ‘ready to sleep train’ till later, the nurse mentions something about babies unable to self-soothe. But you’re confused. How are some of these newborns or even 3 month old babies getting better sleep? Why were they sleep trained? You look for more answers online only to find that most sites simply say to wait 4 months. Some say 6 months.
What’s the truth?
There is absolutely truth to this, but it’s important to understand first, their definition of ‘sleep training.’ Many medical experts in the pediatric field, are unfortunately, not provided much training on infant sleep in medical school. They are learning so many things about development, growth, nutrition, but there is no formal curriculum in medical school on pediatric sleep. When ‘sleep training’ comes up, here are the common concepts and definitions associated with it:
- Sleep training is Ferber or Cry-it-Out, where you leave your child in their room and check on them in intervals.
- Sleep training means your child needs to sleep through the night and middle of the night feeds must be weaned.
- Sleep training requires the ability to self-soothe or the ability to regulate their emotions.
When you look at this list, it may be easy to understand exactly why some people may recommend that sleep training occur after 4 months of age. But here’s some other truth:
- There are other more responsive, gentler forms of sleep training methods outside of Ferber and Cry-it-Out, that allow a parent to be present and respond that lead to independent sleep that are developmentally more appropriate for younger babies (and older babies).
- Sleep training with the right approach and method doesn’t necessarily mean you need to drop night feeds or ANY feeds for that matter. Finding an expert or resource who can help you navigate through this can help this be a natural process.
- The goal is independent sleep, meaning a child can safely fall asleep, predictably, without assistance. Sleep is not an emotional thing. If a child is tired, they are able to fall asleep, and emotional regulation is not a requirement. I mean…heck, even us as adults still can’t emotionally regulate, but we sleep just fine!
If you’re trying to navigate through this and ready for better sleep, but you are wondering if you have options, there is! Your traditional forms of sleep training are not your only options if your child is younger than 6 months of age. In fact, if you’re looking for an alternative to Ferber, Leave and Check or Cry-it-out, and your child IS older, there’s also an alternative for you. This is where Association Fading Sleep Method ™ focuses on a holistic approach that brings together feeds, the importance of a natural nap schedule and independent sleep with a responsive method becomes something more viable for families with babies as early as 8 weeks. We’ve seen it! So if you’re unsure, or want to know if there’s an option for you, chat with us. There’s an approach for your child, appropriate for their development, and your family.
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