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Baby Clinic


How to sleep train

Once your baby is past the "endless slumber" stage (at about four to five months), her sleep routine will start to take shape. Keep in mind that a typical baby might take three or four one-hour naps a day, while others enjoy a two-hour nap every morning and afternoon like clockwork.

How to sleep train

By about four months you may already have noticed that your baby tends to fall off to sleep at a certain time in the morning or afternoon. Also that the early evening nap could roll into the night if you tried putting your baby into her cot a little earlier. Instead of letting your baby fall asleep during a feed, put her into her cot while still awake. Sing to her and reassuringly lay your hand on her tummy. She may well cry as these are her first experiences of being in her cot awake, but if she is fed, has a clean nappy and not in pain, just speak softly to her and, without picking her up, stroke her hair or her body until she falls asleep.

The next evening, stay for a few minutes reassuring her and again touching her without picking her up, but then say ‘night night’ and leave her side to sit at a chair somewhere else in the room. The next evening do the same but do not stay constantly in the room. Instead come back in every five minutes or so to lay your hands on her tummy and say a few reassuring words but then leave again. Repeat this until she goes to sleep.

Eventually, over three or four days or at most a couple of weeks, your baby will have a little grizzle but be prepared to drift off to sleep without you.

If she is reluctant to give in:

  • Never get cross. Be firm but always reassuring in your tone.
  • Do not give in after half an hour’s crying. Just keep going in at regular intervals but then withdrawing again. If your baby knows that crying for long enough will mean she gets picked up she will cry for that long again the next time.
  • If she cries so much that she makes herself sick of course you will need to get her up and cleaned but do not give up entirely on sleep training, just leave it for a week or so before starting again.
  • If your baby becomes too used to your still being in the room to fall asleep, make sure you choose a day after which you will not continue this practice, otherwise it sets up another dependent habit.
  • Make sure you and your partner or any other carer all agree on the plan of action. It’s no fun hearing your baby crying but after a few days it will work. If one of you wants to sleep train and the other doesn’t, wait another few weeks – there is no point adding your clash of opinions to a tired and fractious situation. And when you do sleep train, be supportive of each other – make a cup of tea for your partner if he is the one going in and out to do the reassuring cotside visits. Also, talk to other parents you know who have got through it for a bit of moral support.

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