You fed the baby, changed her diaper, rocked her for a bit and put her down for bed.
And still, she won’t stop crying. You want to comfort her, but is that the right thing to do?
Not necessarily. If you’re sure there’s nothing physically wrong, that may be doing more harm than good, for both you and the baby.
As part of a baby’s sleep training, and as hard as it might be, sometimes you just need to let them cry it out.
Why Babies Cry
Babies fuss for a lot of reasons. Hunger. Discomfort. Fatigue. Teething. Overstimulation.
After a while, parents often can discern from sounds or other cues what’s making their baby cry. An obvious one is a baby rubbing their eyes while crying, a good sign they’re sleepy.
Crying is a perfectly normal way for babies to communicate their needs.
What if They Won’t Stop?
While crying is normal, it can be stressful for parents when they’re unable to soothe a child.
It triggers an emotional response to rush in and provide comfort, but letting your child cry it out teaches them to self-soothe. If a parent is constantly picking up their child when they awaken at night, the child is less likely to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
You don’t need to worry that letting a child self-soothe, or cry it out, will create some type of emotional detachment or barrier between you and your child.
How Sleep Training Works
First, don’t try to sleep-train a newborn. It takes a few months before a baby has developed the ability to have regular sleeping cycles.
A baby should be 4 to 6 months old for sleep training to begin in earnest. Some of the basic rules that apply to adult sleep also apply to baby sleep: The room needs to be relatively quiet, dark and calm, and bedtime needs to be consistent.
Pacifiers are OK. So are night lights as long as they’re not too bright, and white-noise machines as long as they’re not too loud.
Now comes the biggie: What to do when the baby starts wailing.
This is where sleeping training can take several paths.
- Cry it out. If your baby is fed, has a clean diaper and isn’t showing any signs of illness, you let them cry until they fall asleep. This can be hard on parents, but it could be the quickest way for your baby to learn to sleep through the night.
- Graduated extinction. The method isn’t as alarming as the name suggests. It basically means you console your baby in the beginning but then taper that off until the baby learns how to soothe himself.
- Chair method, or fading. Using this method, you remain seated in a chair while your baby falls asleep.
What Works Best?
That’s up to you. You know your baby best and, along with consulting with a pediatrician, will figure it out.
But parents also need to ensure they’re getting good rest. And while letting your baby cry it out might be hard at first, it’s usually the fastest way to help your baby learn how to sleep through the night.
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