Sleep Training: which method should I follow?

sleep-training-sonoma.jpg

Few things in our society today make less sense than our inappropriate expectations of infants’ behavior. Of all the things that newborn babies are not known for being stellar at, sleeping consistently through the night comes in at the top of the list. They are not supposed to sleep through the night for a myriad of valid health and developmental reasons.

And yet friends, family, well meaning acquaintances and strangers all seem to ask the same single question to brand new parents: “Is he (or she) sleeping through the night?” They then wait for your response so they can measure your worth as a parent by the words that escape your lips next.

Tired and annoyed parents everywhere, here is your answer: “Gracious I should hope not!”

Dozens of books line the shelves of the parenting section all about the various magical formulas authors have for how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Ferber is a household name. Babywise is passed around among mom’s circles. They make promises of having a baby sleeping through the night every night when your baby is only weeks old.

There are a few things to note about these sleep training “methods.” None of them have been proven scientifically. Most of these books do not cite any research at all, despite the claims they make. Several also say things like “research suggests” or “studies show,” and yet these phantom studies are nowhere to be found in the book. Any research that is cited is found to be poor science, or completely outdated.

In fact, the only true research with longevity and controlled testing that has been done on mother and infant sleep has come from Dr James McKenna at the University of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory. He has been studying infant sleep for decades and he does not advocate sleep training methods. Rather, he recommends against them. He says that babies, particularly newborn babies, who are left alone to “self soothe” are also being forced to be alone during a sensitive period when attachment to a trusted caregiver is vital to shaping their brain and personality.

All that being said, babies can begin to be taught routines and good habits as they emerge from the newborn phase at around 1-2 months. At this age their stomachs are much bigger so it is safer for them to sleep for longer stretches. Routines help them associate certain behaviors or cues with sleep. This can make bedtime much less stressful for parents and the baby as they grow together as a family.

A wonderful resource for parents that would like more sleep at night is a postpartum doula. Night shifts are not at all uncommon in this profession. The postpartum doula can help you get through those busy nights for the first several weeks with your baby by helping with diaper changes, soothing and feeding, including bringing the baby to mom to nurse. A couple extra skilled hands go a long way toward getting everyone a little more sleep in those early weeks and months with baby.

Postpartum doulas can also work with families on establishing a routine for bedtime and good sleep and eating habits throughout the day and night.  A bedtime routine may look like this: take a bath, read Goodnight Moon, sing a song while putting pajamas on, rock in the rocking chair and lay down for bed.  Consistently done, baby will enjoy this predictability and associate the routine with bedtime.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The Postpartum Doula can help teach you and your infant good sleep and nap habits, set up a schedule or routine and get you going on a healthy sleep relationship with your baby.

For further reading:

The Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory with Dr James Mckenna: http://cosleeping.nd.edu/