Kids & Company Blog

Sleep Training

Sleep training is one of the most controversial and stressful issues for parents. Not necessarily just in the first year but with my eighth child, my husband and I had a middle of the night visitor for five years!

It was actually 29 years ago that I was expecting my first son. I certainly didn't think about or expect sleep issues. There was so much to learn about "having a baby"! As we proceeded to rock and pat and feed and rub, to help him to sleep, I realized that part of my/our job was to help him learn to fall asleep on his own. We actually worked through many of the steps that our friends at Wholeplay detail below. And they worked!

So, we continued to work at "sleep training" with each and every child. As you can imagine, it was very important to me that I had the "current baby" sleeping well before the "next baby" arrived. My children were all less than two years apart.

Why did I fall down and do such a poor job with baby number eight? Simple reason I think, he was my last!


 Fraser, Number 8 - almost 17 years old!


Here are some great tips on sleep training from our friends at Wholeplay!

What is “sleep training”? Do I need to sleep train my child?

When most people hear the word “sleep training,” they think of the “cry-it-out” method.

However, sleep training refers to any deliberate action a parent/caregiver takes to regulate a child’s sleep pattern. Therefore, establishing a bedtime routine can be considered sleep training. More formal methods of sleep training involve systematized, step-by-step procedures that are implemented in a consistent and deliberate manner. These range in terms of how often a parent “intervenes” to get his child to go to sleep on his own. For example, the “extinction” approach to sleep training, uses very little parental intervention to get a child to sleep, while the “bed-sharing” approach, uses a lot of parental intervention. Most formal methods of sleep training fall somewhere in between the extinction method and the bed-sharing method. It is important to note that no sleep training method is superior to any other in terms of effectiveness. (According to the

American Academy of Sleep Medicine).

Because it is the exception, not the rule, to have a child who is born knowing how to sleep through the night and/or fall asleep on his ownmost parents will use some form of sleep training throughout early childhood to get their young child to sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine is probably the most common sleep training method parents use to get their young children to sleep. This involves setting up a regular, relaxing pattern of behaviours around a child’s bedtime as a means of conditioning and transitioning him into a sleepy state so that he can ultimately fall asleep on his own. A more formal sleep training method might be required when/if a child’s bedtime/sleeproutine is no longer working for the child and/or the parents on a consistent basis, (i.e-the child and/or parent aren’t getting an adequate amount of sleep according to child’sstage of development).

The “cry-it-out” method, which involves letting babies cry themselves to sleep without any parental assistance, is generally not recommended for babies under the age of 3 months, due to the intense period of bonding that takes place during this period as well as the high-risk for SIDS. That being said, there is no empirical support for the claim that children, who are healthy and securely attached to their parents, are damaged by the “cry it-out” method.


What is the goal of more formal sleep training?

The goal of more formal sleep training is to teach young children how to fall asleep on their own. This means that the parent is not present when the child falls asleep, but rather lets the child fall asleep without his presence/assistance.

This is most frequently accomplished when the parent accompanies the child through a relaxing, predictable bedtime routine up until the point the child is ready to fall asleep. When the child is sleepy, but still awake, the parent leaves the room to allow the child to fall asleep on his own. Sleep training methods differ in how much reassurance/what kind of reassurance the parent gives the child after the parent initially leaves the child alone and the child ultimately falls asleep.


How does sleep training work?

Allowing young children to fall asleep without having their parents present seems to work because it encourages them to rely upon their own self-soothing strategies, which young children are less likely to use with their parents present. It helps young children to sleep through the night because young children seem to need the same set of circumstances to go back to sleep as they do to fall asleep, (i.e.-if the parent is present while the child falls asleep, the parent will need to be present when the child wakes up during the night). As young children get older they should develop more and more self-soothing strategies and depend less and less upon their parent’s presence to help them to get to sleep.


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