Surviving Sleep Training F I RST YEAR Tips from a Rady Children’s sleep specialist
Start trying to slowly encourage the child to fall asleep on their own before any sleep training officially begins. Start getting used to the idea of not rocking your child to sleep or nursing them to sleep. Try to wait until your child is good and drowsy to lay them down. The sweet spot is when they’re just moments away from falling asleep, says Dr. Bhattacharjee. Recognize that not every method works for every kid. Not all kids are equal when it comes to sleep training. Your child’s pediatrician can rule out any medical reasons for their sleepless nights and help find an individualized approach that works. Avoid medication, if possible. Dr. Bhattacharjee says that in developmen- tally typical children, sleep training is entirely behavioral. There are no FDA- approved sleep medications for children, so behavioral sleep training should be your first option. That being said, child- hood insomnia does exist and, if present, should be treated by a physician. For more tips, Dr. Bhattacharjee recommends babysleep.com , a website developed by physicians, psychologists and other experts in the field of pediatric sleep medicine.
“The goal is to have kids learn how to soothe themselves and minimize the interactions that are required at bedtime,” says Rakesh Bhattacharjee, director of sleep medicine at Rady Children’s. Whatever method you choose, Dr. Bhattacharjee recommends starting around 4–6 months of age when nighttime feedings become less necessary. Starting too late or not sleep training at all can leave a child with sleep associations that are harder to break later in life.
FOR MANY PARENTS , sleep training conjures images of sleepless nights and the guilty feelings that come with letting their baby “cry it out.” However, there are several methods to teach your baby to go to sleep or go back to sleep on their own. They run the gamut from “extinction”—aka crying it out—to no-cry methods that can be just as effective but require more patience.
10 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE SPRING 2021
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