Countdown to Joash's 6th Birthday

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Countdown to Jayna's 5th Birthday

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Countdown to Jaide's Birthday

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Countdown to Joram's Birthday

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sleep Training

I've been asked to share regarding this topic countless times by both new and experienced mothers but I find that the ones who benefit from my sharing are those with newborns because the younger they are, the easier it is to train. 

There are as many sleep training books out there as there are books which advice against any form of sleep training. I didn't start my motherhood journey with sleep training in mind. It was after one and a half months of sleeplessness for my husband and I with my first newborn son that I decided to sleep train. I am someone who can't function without proper sleep so sleep training was essential for me. I didn't quite follow any single method, just whatever makes sense and works for me, after prayerful thought.

Definition of sleep training:
To create a conducive environment for the infant to learn self-soothing techniques so as to be able to fall sleep on his own without additional aid such as pacifier, rocking, patting, comfort nursing or the constant presence of the parent.

A Separate Dedicated Sleeping Place

Sleep training is not possible unless the child has a proper sleeping place not in the same room as where the parents sleep. It has to be baby/child-proofed thoroughly and it has to be a place dedicated to sleeping and nothing else so as not to confuse the baby. The sleeping place can be different for daytime naps and nighttime sleep though e.g. naps-bouncer, night-cot. Having a baby-monitor or/and a surveillance camera can be very helpful too. 

Fill Up The Love Tank

I find that in order for the baby to feel secure enough to be without Mummy's company during sleeping time, he must receive plenty of love during non-sleeping times. It is much easier for me as a homemaker to do that because I get to be with the kid throughout the day. I make sure I give lots of hugs, kisses, attention and playtime when the baby is awake so that I can send him off to La-la land with a smile and a goodnight kiss with a clear conscience. 

Providing Sleep Cues

There are many types of sleep cues you can give. It depends on what you feel comfortable doing ALL the time. Some give the pacifier but I find it tedious to keep popping it back for the baby. Others will give a lovey but I avoid putting anything that might suffocate the baby without me physically around to supervise. Nursing to sleep will lead to comfort nursing eventually and it is next to impossible to wean.

First, I make sure that the baby has no reason to complain. Here's a checklist which is helpful for me:
1) Comfortable clothes
2) Well ventilated and cool environment
3) Clean diaper
4) Fed and thoroughly burped
5) White noise to mask sudden loud noises - I use the fan and the air purifier. I add in soft instrumental worship music during the day as daytime noise tends to be louder.

Note: It is advisable to put baby to bed on his back to prevent suffocation and SID. 

Differentiating Night and Day

I basically work with the natural properties of night and day.

Daytime naps are characterised by the noise of the daily hustle and bustle plus natural light. When the baby wakes up during the day, there will be lots of interaction, noise and activity even during nursing and diaper-changing. However, at night, the bedroom is kept dark and quiet. I try to use low yellow light and avoid talking or eye contact when I nurse and change diapers before I put him back to bed after each night feed. Every movement is calm and smooth at night.

During the day, I only put the baby to bed if he looks sleepy and tired after some form of activity/interaction for a period of time. Obviously, the length of awake time will depend on the age of the baby and different babies can have different capacity too. At night, I will put the baby to bed right after feed and diaper change whether or not he looks sleepy. 

I am also more relaxed and indulgent during the day regarding sleep cues. I allowed falling asleep in the baby sling because I went out with the baby/children very often so it was convenient for me that way. I actually patted my second one to sleep during naps when she was a toddler and I still lie beside my third kid till she falls asleep as part of my special alone time with her for the day.

However, I am very strict when it comes to night-time. I explain to my children that I need my rest at night so that I can be recharged and alert to take good care of them during the day. They know that I will not go to them unless there is an emergency.

Establish a bedtime routine

In order to differentiate between the day and night properly, there has to be a clear bedtime routine to mark the start of the night sleep. I prefer to keep it simple. After the dinner feed, I will give the baby a nice warm bath with lullaby music, a light massage with moisturiser, dress him in PJs, say a short bedtime prayer and off to bed he goes. 

Traditionally, parents read books right before bedtime but I find that this can potentially become a way for the kid to delay bedtime when he gets older by asking for more books or longer stories. Instead, I do all my reading to the children during the daytime. But I guess, this will be hard to do for working parents. 

To signal the end of the night time, we'll go into the room bright and cheery to greet the baby in the morning. 

Be consistent

Once you have a sleep routine, it is paramount to keep to it ALL the time so as not to give the child mixed signals. The younger the child is, the more important it is to not have exceptions. It can be very difficult in the beginning. We had to give up on night engagements so that we can keep the bedtime sacred. It was also difficult when the baby cried to sleep initially. However, if we give in even once, the baby will assume that if he cries long or hard enough, we will go and pick him up. This is counter-productive. It also interferes with the baby's learning of self-soothing techniques. As difficult as it is, we have to keep in mind that the crying will not last for long. Non of our children cried before falling asleep for more than two weeks.

Even during times of illness, other than giving medication and checking temperature, we try not to vary too much from the standard practice. The TLC (tender loving care) is given mainly during the day. Even when there is a need for changing of bedsheets at night due to vomiting or soiling, it is back to bed for everyone after a short prayer.

Obviously, the baby will nurse round the clock when he is a newborn. However, if you keep to the routine and make sure he is well fed and given enough attention during the day, he will be able to eventually sleep through the night. Here's when each of my kids starts to sleep through the night (8pm-7am):
Joash - 4.5 mths old
Jayna - 3.5 mths old
Jaide - 5.5 mths old
Joram - 3 mths old

Ultimately, each family and individual is different. What is beneficial for my family may not be so for another. Some simply love co-sleeping while others enjoy the night comfort nursing. Yet others have baby's health concerns to grapple with and thus do not have the option to sleep train. The important thing is for the family to be comfortable with the arrangement. 

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