Having a baby sleeping through the night is quite an exhausting task in parenting. Over the years, some proven time-tested techniques and attitudes have been compiled by parenting counselors. Most of these techniques are applicable to toddlers and infants of all ages.
There are certain decisions parents need to take to get their baby to go to sleep and stay soundly asleep, such as:
- A realistic long term goal to help the baby develop a healthy attitude should be the main focus. Sleeping is not a state that can be forced on babies. The best thing for a parent to do to ensure the baby sleeping through the night is to create an environment that will allow sleep to take over the baby. Babies need a relaxing pleasant environment to help them feel sleepy and enter a sleep deep enough to keep them asleep through the night.
- Setting sensible routines that suit both the parents and babies. If the daytime or nighttime routine is not working out, parents need to think of what changes can be made in their lifestyles, which will make it easier to meet the baby’s needs.
- Staying flexible. There is no particular approach that works for all babies. Parents need to be flexible with experiments. They should not persist with a failing experiment. For example, if a particular sleeping program is not working out right for the baby, it should be dropped and another approach should be adopted. Parents need to keep working at a style of nighttime parenting that will fit the temperament of the baby and ensure the baby sleeping through the night.
- Deciding where the baby sleeps best. There are no right and wrong places for babies to sleep. Most babies sleep best in their cribs and in their own rooms. Whatever suits the baby best is what works fine.
Conditions to Ensure a Baby Sleeping Through the Night
Babies cannot be forced into sleeping. The nighttime parenting role of parents should be such that makes sleeping conditions an attractive idea to babies. That is, conditions that suggest or give the idea to babies that sleep is expected. There are various tips that come in handy at various stages in a baby’s development and ensure the baby sleeping through the night.
The way infants go to sleep at night is the way they expect to go back to sleep when they awaken. So if babies are rocked or nursed to sleep, they will expect to be rocked or nursed back to sleep every time. This means getting the baby used to a variety of sleep associations. There are two ways of getting a baby sleeping through the night successfully; the parent-soothing method and the self-soothing method. However, both of these methods have advantages and possible disadvantages.
Parent-soothing is when a baby is ready to sleep and the parent or caregiver helps the baby drift into a comfortable transition from being awake to falling asleep (usually by rocking, nursing, singing or other comforting techniques). The advantages of parent-soothing are that the baby learns a healthy sleep attitude (which ensures the baby sleeping through the night without waking up), builds a parent-infant trust and creates fond memories about being parented to sleep. However, the disadvantage is that babies instead learn to rely on outside props to get to sleep. So when the baby awakens, he will expect help to get back to sleep. This becomes very exhausting for parents.
Self-soothing is when the baby goes back to sleep on his own, without the help of parents. The advantage of this is that the baby learns to put himself to sleep without parental help. The disadvantages of self-soothing are:
- Involves the baby crying a lot for a few nights
- Risks the baby losing trust in his parents because he somewhat grows with the realization that his parents may not be of much help, and therefore, becoming very independent (which can be a good thing, but not always)
- Overlooks possible medical conditions that cause night waking
- Parents tend to become less sensitive to the baby’s cries
- Swinging a baby gently to sleep is a helpful way to put a baby to sleep faster. Depending on what comforts the baby, this can be done in the arms or by the use if wind-up swings.
- Nestling down next to the baby and nursing him gets him to sleep easily
- Rocking or walking around
- Making the room quiet and dark
- Dressing the baby in comfortable attires
- Making sure the baby is not hungry before putting to bed
Just like day time parenting, nighttime parenting is equally a very time consuming as well as a long term investment. However, good parenting involves adopting all the necessary techniques to successfully ensure the baby sleeping through the night.