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Slaying the Sleep Dragon: Sleep Training Tips for Your Child

Here are a doctor’s sleep training tips on how to get your child to sleep through the night

Sleep Training Tips

Did you know that by 4 months of age, 80 percent of babies can be safely trained to sleep through the night? For older infants and toddlers, almost all can be trained. Evidence shows that sleep training does no physical or emotional harm to children. So, if sleep sounds good to you, roll up your sleeves and let’s get it done!

Here are a few helpful sleep training tips*:

  1. Be consistent. Whichever sleep training method you choose (and to some extent they all work) stick to it. If you’re in it with a partner, stick together! Develop a nightly routine and follow through.
  2. Be brave. Sometimes you have to slay that guilt dragon! Clearly, most babies and toddlers who resist sleep, will put up quite a fuss when training begins. We parents have to gear up with some anti-guilt armor. From broccoli to broken rules, a kid’s life is not always easy. Our job as parents is to push through, especially when it’s as important as sleep or safety! So be brave and soldier on!
  3. Be informed. One thing you should know is that all babies, like all children and adults, wake briefly multiple times per night. Young babies do so frequently because they need to feed. By 4 to 6 months of age, most babies will take a night feeding if offered, but generally do not need it. Check with your child’s doctor to see if it’s ok to begin withholding night feedings and start sleep training.

One tried and true sleep training method is called “controlled comforting” which teaches kids self-soothing.

sleep training tipsHere’s how “controlled comforting” works:

  • For babies, parents place the baby in a crib awake then wait to re-enter the room at longer and longer intervals to soothe if needed. The “soothing” involves using only a soft voice indicating “I’m here, you’re ok” followed by exiting without picking the baby up. Contrary to popular opinion, this will not kill you! The first night, you re-enter the room as needed to soothe at 5, 10, and 15 minute intervals until the baby goes to sleep on his or her own. The second night, the intervals are extended to 10, 15, and 20 minutes, and so on. The pattern is repeated when the baby wakes in the night. Typically, it only takes 3-5 nights for the baby to learn that he or she needs to soothe himself or herself to sleep.
  • For toddlers, parents tuck them in bed and say “we love you, we’ll see you in the morning” and exit the room. Don’t laugh, it’s part of the routine! When they invariably start melting down or running down the hall (or both), refer back to being brave! Suit up in that armor and tuck them calmly back into bed. You might have to do this two dozen times the first night, but stay calm! Once they stay in their bed, they may well be throwing an epic fit. This is when you start the timed intervals of re-entering the room to verbally comfort. You go in at increasing intervals and say “I’m here, you’re fine, we all need sleep, I love you, and we’ll see you in the morning” and out you go. If you stick to your guns, the next night will go better. If you give in, it will be so much worse. It comes down to who’s in charge and the fact of the matter is, it’s gotta be you. The payout is amazing! What could be better than sleep?

sleep training tips

So, be consistent, be brave, be informed, and be well rested!

*Note: Behavioral sleep training methods should not be used if there is concern for sleep apnea or illness. When in doubt, check with your child’s doctor.

sleep trainingThis article was written by Julie Hanson, M.D., FAAP. Dr. Hanson is a pediatrician at Mercy Clinics Pediatrics Norwalk. Dr. Hanson is accepting new patients. Call (515) 974-0800 to schedule an appointment for your child today!

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This is the 12th installment in a healthcare series from Mercy Des Moines. Find the rest of the posts below:

Tips to Avoid Heat Exhaustion in Young Kids

No Shot, No School

Why Kids Get Tummy Aches

Should You Delay Your Baby’s First Bath?

The Importance of a Hospital with an Emergency OB Department

Pregnancy and Birthing Classes: an Education for Two!

Tips for Avoiding Head and Brain Injuries in Children

Why You Should Consider a Midwife for Obstetric Care

Tummy Time Tips to Avoid Flat Heads

You’re Not Alone: Helping Parents With Infant Bereavement

Understanding Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues


This sponsored post is brought to you in collaboration with Mercy Des Moines.

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