Newborn Care Specialist’s Guide to Sleep Training Methods
Part of your duties as a newborn care specialist is to help the new parents get their baby on a normal sleep schedule and routine. Your objective is to sleep train the baby, so that, eventually, he or she will sleep through the night with fewer and fewer night wakings.
Why Sleep Training Is Important
Sleep training is essential to teach babies that they have the ability to fall asleep independently without having to be rocked, soothed, or fed. Once they learn this ability, they will sleep pretty much through the night, although they may still wake up for a nighttime feeding or a diaper change.
Sleep training is important because it helps the parents and the baby get the rest they need. Sleep is essential for the parents to think and function correctly and enjoy being new parents. Sleep is equally essential for the baby’s development and growth.
When to Start Sleep Training
Before you start sleep training a baby, there are a few things you need to know. First, the baby should be on somewhat of a regular schedule. You want to make sure that the baby is being put to bed at the same time every night.
When the newborn is about two to three months old, you want to put them down whenever they are a bit drowsy yet still awake. This helps the baby to start to get used to being put down without any coddling, rocking, etc.
You also need to make sure to not keep the newborn awake too long or let them sleep too much. A newborn who is overtired or undertired will have problems sleeping. A baby requires between twelve and sixteen hours of sleep each day during their first year of life.
This sleep time does include naps. However, the bulk of their sleeping should be at night. To promote optimal sleep at night, you want to keep the baby stimulated with plenty of activities during the day. Once you have these things in place, you are ready to sleep train your baby.
The baby should be at least four months old. Typically, this is when most babies start to exhibit a change to their current routines. They may start to wake more often at night or want to sleep longer during the day.
The baby in your care can be older as well. Some parents and their newborn care specialists decide to put off sleep training until the baby is ten months old or older. The baby will still respond to various sleep training methods.
Popular Sleep Training Methods
Several different sleep training methods can be used to help babies learn how to fall asleep independently. Some methods take a graduated extinction approach, which can seem a bit harsh for some parents, while others take a more gentle approach.
The Chair Method
The chair method is very easy to do for most newborn care specialists. You place a chair next to the crib and sit in it after putting your baby to bed. Make sure to avoid using electronics, as the bright light can keep them awake. Once they fall asleep, you leave the room.
The next night, you move the chair back a little bit from the crib where the baby can still see you. Each night, you gradually move the chair farther and farther, until the chair is outside the room.
The Pick Up/Put Down Method
The pick up/put down method is where you put your baby to bed and then leave. If the baby starts crying or is fussing excessively, wait a few minutes. If they do not stop, then you go in, pick the baby up, soothe them, and put them back down. You repeat this process until they fall asleep.
The Bedtime Fading Method
The bedtime fading method is where you are attempting to get the baby to go to sleep at a set bedtime. If you notice when you put the baby to bed that they fuss and cry, the problem could be that they are not tired.
This method allows you to gradually start adjusting their bedtime at 15-minute intervals every few days. To illustrate, if you cannot get the baby to sleep until 10 p.m., you will want to adjust their bedtime to 9:45 p.m.
After a few nights of being put to bed at this time, they should go to sleep. The next night, move the bedtime to 9:30 p.m. Repeat this for a few nights until they are going to sleep at this time. Continue to adjust the bedtime every few days until you get to the desired bedtime.
You can continue to do regular bedtime routines like feeding, rocking, bathing, reading a book, or singing a song before putting the baby down. However, you want to start doing regular bedtime routines earlier so there is about a 15- to 30-minute gap between them and the scheduled bedtime.
The goal is to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own without relying on regular routines to help them fall asleep. Plus, this method is good to use for parents that want their newborn care specialists to minimize crying and fussing.
The Ferber Method
The Ferber method is where you check on the baby at established intervals. However, you should avoid picking them up and rocking them to sleep. Doing so reinforces the routine of rocking them to sleep, so it can be a difficult pattern to break.
Once you put the baby to bed, you leave the room. You then check on them every few minutes until they fall asleep. You can touch them or reassure them verbally at each interval. Once asleep, let them rest.
If they wake up, start the process over again. Your objective is to increase the time in between the intervals you check on them. Ideally, you want to get to around 15 minutes. If the baby starts crying, it is okay to let them cry until you check on them.
To soothe them, rub their back and say some comforting words. Again, try to avoid picking them up to soothe them, as this can defeat any progress you have made with sleep training.
The Cry It Out Method
The cry it out method can be a bit controversial for some parents and their newborn care specialists. Essentially, you put the baby to bed, tell them goodnight, and leave the room. If they start to cry, you let them cry it out until they self-soothe themselves and fall asleep.
Unless they still require a nighttime feeding, you leave the baby in their bed until morning. You do check on the baby periodically without allowing them to see you until they fall asleep. If they wake, you let them cry it out again.
As you can imagine, this can be difficult for new parents and newborn care specialists to do. You can alter the method to better suit the needs of the family. For example, some parents are okay with allowing their newborn care specialist to let the baby cry for five or ten minutes.
If they do not stop, then you should go back into the room, comfort the baby until they stop crying, and then leave the room. Additionally, this method can be difficult because there will be a lot of crying for the first several nights. Yet, after about four or five nights, the periods will often become fewer and farther in between.
How to Decide Which Method Is Best
The thing to remember is that there are no right or wrong methods. It will just depend on what methods work best for the baby and the family. When working with a family and determining what sleep training techniques to use, make sure to review each one, along with weighing the pros and cons of each method.
You should establish an amount of time to try a particular method before considering another one. For example, with the cry it out method, you should see results within a week. If not, then you will want to try a different method.
For the other sleep training methods, you should commit to at least two weeks before trying a different one. These methods can take longer for the baby in your care to start to adjust to them.
Regardless of the method used, one thing that can help with each one is using a white noise machine. The machine can help soothe and comfort the baby so they will go back to sleep on their own without crying or fussing too much.
Getting babies to sleep can seem difficult for new parents. With help from an experienced newborn care specialist and the right sleep training techniques, it will not be long before the baby is sleeping through the night.
If you are a newborn care specialist and are seeking employment and placement with a family, please feel free to contact Staffing at Tiffanie’s at 866-484-5550 today! Since 1998, we have specialized in the exclusive placement of full-time and part-time nannies, newborn care specialists, and other household staff.