I thought sleep training was going to be a nightmare.
At 6 months postpartum, my husband and I made the decision to transition our daughter Annabell to the crib. Being new parents, we knew we had no idea how to sleep train but after months of sleep deprivation, we were desperate to try.
Understandably, this transition didn’t come without obstacles.
Each night, we’d lay her down in her crib, shut the door, turn on the monitor and stare in disbelief as she screamed and cried at the top of her lungs. This was torture and no matter how hard we tried to resist going in to soothe her, eventually one of us would crack, go in and reset the whole process.
With this not working, we made a deal with one another that we wouldn’t go in her room until she had been crying for at least five minutes. Unfortunately, this didn’t work either because when five minutes was up, she was still in full blown freak out mode.
Helpless as to what to do, I decided one evening to switch things up. The moment the timer hit five minutes, I turned to my husband and said “Give her two more minutes.” Although we both hated the idea of her crying more, we knew we had to do something different if we wanted a different result.
Then, at 6 minutes and 45 seconds, the crying stopped. Our daughter had finally fallen asleep on her own. So, we continued extending it to seven minutes and within a few days our daughter was falling asleep on her own without crying.
It’s clear that my husband and I got lucky stumbling upon this, but in speaking with women through Expectful, I’ve come to know that we aren’t the only parents who struggled with sleep training. Many new parents want help, but don’t know who to turn to for accurate advice.
It’s because of this that I decided to reach out to Baby Sleep Specialist and author of The Baby Sleep Solution, Suzy Giordano to find out everything there is to know about sleep training.
It’s my hope that Suzy’s answers give you the guidance and confidence to help you train your baby to sleep throughout the night.
- Is there an ideal sleep schedule to follow during the first year? If so, is the schedule different for a newborn compared to a one-year-old and how so?
When babies first come into the world, they have to adjust to the new environment around them. Think about it, suddenly your baby goes from being in a perfect environment where everything is balanced and given to them without hesitation, to a not-so-perfect environment where they have to communicate to get what they want.
So, the first three months are what I call the transitional time. During this period, I encourage new parents to create a schedule around feedings, rather than sleep. I do this because the number one thing you want to focus on as a new parent is helping your baby to gain weight so that their body can sustain this new environment.
During the first three months, you cannot create a bad habit. So hold your baby, love your baby and bond with your baby. Towards the end of the three months, your baby will begin to get to a magical weight that allows them to sleep for longer stretches throughout the night. If you pay attention, you’ll notice a few signs that tell you your baby is ready. First, your baby will have more energy to stay awake and engage with its environment during the day. Next, they’ll begin eating less. Once you recognize these things, your baby is naturally ready to begin sleeping throughout the night.
When your baby hits this point, the schedule I recommend is having your baby sleep 12 hours throughout the night, and then two naps throughout the day. One two hour nap in the morning, and one two hour nap in the afternoon.
Then, as they grow, they’re able to manage longer periods of time. So,by the one-year-old mark, they should be sleeping through the night (12 hours), have a one hour nap in the morning and a two hour nap in the afternoon. By 18 months, they shift to only a two hour in the middle of the day and that continues up until they’re three or four years old.
- When should you transition a baby to the crib?
There are new guidelines out around this topic. The new guidelines for safety for SIDS says that a baby should sleep in the same room as its parents until they’re at least six months. However, I believe you can transition your baby to the crib at any time. It’s a very personal call.
The crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep so you can transition at any time, but note that when you do decide to move them to the crib, it will be a learning experience. Your baby most likely will cry one or two nights. So set yourself up for success by scheduling this transition at the start of a weekend or a time when your sleep can be more compromised.
The number one thing that you want to keep in mind is safety. It’s imperative. So, whatever you do, make sure your baby’s environment within the crib is safe, so no blankets, no unbreathable bumpers around the crib. Don’t have anything in there that could compromise your baby’s breathing.
- Is there an ideal time you recommend a parent start this transition to the crib?
Yes, eight weeks. At eight weeks, they start stabilizing, meaning they’re not as cranky, they’re not crying as much and they’re finally beginning to digest better so they aren’t irritated by gas as much.
I always tell parents, if you need to do a big transition, do it between week 8 and 12 because it will be easier.
- What are the precautions all parents should take to avoid SIDs?
First of all, I don’t think it can be 100% prevented but according to the evidence that’s been found, it’s important to have certain things in place to help eliminate it from happening. As I mentioned before, use either no bumpers or breathable ones. Position your baby on their back, make sure everything in the crib is tight. So no loose fitted sheets, no blankets, and if you have a stuffed animal in the crib make sure nothing is glued on because you don’t want your baby’s little fingers unattaching anything that they could swallow.
Another thing you can do is have a fan on to circulate the air so that your baby can breathe easier.
But, the number one thing is don’t sleep with your baby. The baby has to have a designated place for them. This will protect them from sliding in or rolling in towards something that could restrict their breathing.
I want to also note here that a year ago, new guidelines came out that said that there was a greater decrease in SIDs for babies who shared a room with their parents. So, having your baby sleep in a crib in the same room could be optimal.
- If a newborn begins rolling over in the crib, what can / should parents do?
Once a baby develops a new ability like rolling over, they can’t unlearn it, so the main thing you need to do is always start your baby lying on their back and then stay on guard throughout the night. Also, you want to immediately begin doing a lot of tummy time during the day. Tummy time will help them build enough strength to lift their head and it will allow them to begin to learn how to roll from their tummy to their back.
So, if your baby flips over relatively early, just know you were given a baby that’s very physical. All you can do is help them to use their physical strength to learn how to flip the other way.
- What is the best way to put a baby to sleep at night?
Falling asleep is an ability that is learned over time. As a parent, all you can do is give your baby the best circumstances to help them develop this ability.
This can be done by creating a bedtime routine. An ideal nighttime routine would be to feed your baby, bathe your baby and then put some soothing sounds on in the background as they fall asleep. Think of this as a time to help your baby transition from an active (day) world to a serene (night) world.
- What do you do if your baby immediately cries when you put them to bed?
Sleep training is all about giving your baby an opportunity to try to do things themselves. Give your baby room to grow and figure it out. Of course, if they need you, go in. But, if they don’t, give them some time to do things on their own, like falling asleep.
Now, if they get to an emotional place where they’re not learning anything, step in and bring them back to a calm place and try again. The key here for you is to start in that magic 8 to 12 week mark.
I think mothers are empowered when they know they can go in and reassure their baby. You can love them for a little bit and then reset and try again. Your position is to be their guide so that they can become independent and find strength within themselves.
- What can parents do when their baby is waking up every few hours? How can they get their baby to sleep throughout the night?
There are three skills that you’re trying to help your baby develop – learning how to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up happy.
So, when you’re not training them to fall asleep, you will be practicing helping them stay asleep. In the middle of the night, your number one goal is to eliminate any physical need that your baby could have.
For example, with eating, write down everything so that even if you’re sleep deprived you know that your baby was fed if they are crying, so decrease the physical need for calories. You do this by using the “three minute rule.” If you know your baby is fed and safe, wait three minutes before going into the room. This gives them an opportunity to fall back asleep themselves.
I always say to parents that they go into the room a minute before the miracle happens. So, it’s like give your baby room to grow.
- If a baby will only fall asleep in a parent’s arms, what can they do to change that?
Your baby can fall asleep without being held, but you’ve convinced yourself that it’s the only way and that’s become a crutch, so you must let go of the crutch. So, what you do is wait for the beginning of the weekend so that you again your sleep can be compromised while you start this transition. Use the tips I gave above on helping to prepare your baby for bed (feed, bathe, soothing music) and then lay them down.
Of course, they’re going to cry because you’re teaching them something new. It all comes down to that you have to give your baby the opportunity to try to do it on their own.
That’s it. If you don’t give them the opportunity, they’re going to grow convinced that they need that crutch. Right? You know that they really don’t but, they’re going to think they do. So, be there to support them, use the tips I’ve said throughout this interview and believe me, they’ll get to where they need to be.
After learning everything there was to know about sleep training, I decided to look into some products out there that could support you and your baby through it.
Keeping Suzy Giordano recommendations in mind about the importance of preventing things like SIDs and creating a soothing environment for your baby to sleep, I came across Happiest Baby’s SNOO smart bassinet sleeper that’s proven to not only be the safest bassinet ever made, but to also reduce crying and boost sleep.
Seeing how aligned The SNOO is with Suzy’s beliefs I decided to reach out and partner with them so that all Expectful users can receive 10% off their bassinet. That’s over $100 off the original price.
Want to give your baby the safest bed ever made? Click here and use code EXPECBXFF6 at checkout to get your discount today.
New parenthood can be a time of great excitement but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty, especially when it comes to things like infant sleep. It’s my hope that providing education around sleep training during this interview with Suzy Giordano helps you to feel empowered throughout your parenthood journey and informs you of the choices you have when it comes to your infants sleep schedule.
About Suzy Giordano
Suzy Giordano is the mother of five children, the youngest being fraternal twin boys. Also known as The Baby Coach, Suzy is based in Washington, D.C., and has worked with families across the United States and around the world as a baby sleep specialist for the past twenty-five years. She has trained hundreds and hundreds of babies, from singletons to quadruplets, including special needs and colicky babies, to sleep twelve hours a night. The vast majority of these babies she has trained herself, in person, at the child’s home, not just through phone or email consultations. She resides in southern Virginia with her husband, Allen Baxter.
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